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Ice Dams

Preventing and removing ice dams

In the past, Oklahoma hasn’t had a problem with ice dams. Unfortunately, over the past several years, changing weather patterns have made ice dams an all too familiar occurrence. Below is some information related to ice dams, including how they form, how to prevent them, and how to deal with them once they have occurred.

Ice dams develop in the presence of three major factors: snow, heat to melt the snow, and cold temperatures to refreeze that melted snow into ice. After snow falls, heat from the inside of the building rises, causing snow on the upper part of the roof to melt. Buildings that are poorly insulated cannot prevent heat inside the building from reaching the roof. For this reason, they are more susceptible to ice dams.

Once the snow melts, the water runs down the roof slope under the snow that has not yet melted. It then refreezes at the roof’s edge into a band, creating an ice dam. The dam prevents additional melted snow from running off the roof, causing it to pool and leak into the building through the roof or roof rim. Severe ice dams usually form when deep snow is followed by freezing temperatures, much like what we are seeing presently.

It is important to note that roof applications for steep roof slopes are not waterproof. Rather, they are composed of overlapping shingles that are designed to shed water. Ice dams prevent this process, causing water to go backward or up the slope of the roof, causing these steep slop applications to leak.

Built up ice and snow on a roof can be very difficult to remove. Below are a few possible solutions to the problem, each with its individual advantages and disadvantages.

DO NOT ATTEMPT

The Hammer

Some people deal with ice dams by climbing a ladder up to the eave of the roof and hitting the ice and snow off with a hammer, or a different device to break up and remove the ice. This method can be risky because the ladder may slip on the ice. Also, hitting the roof with a blunt object like a hammer can result in roof damage.

Hot Water Treatment

This method involves hooking up a hose to a home’s hot water source and spraying it on the roof to remove snow and ice. This can be potentially risky because the distance from the water heater to the roof is often too great for one hose. Hoses can be prone to leaking at the joints, something that might result in damage to then interior of the home. There is also a chance that you could be burned by the hot water.

Roof Rakes can potentially damage shingles

The Snow Rake

Another method involves fashioning a long rake to remove the snow from the roof. Once the deep snow is removed, most roofs will be able to heat up to the point that the rest of the snow and ice will melt. However, homeowners still take the risk of being outside in subfreezing temperatures. The risks include slipping and falling on ice on the ground, and the risk of the snow breaking free from the roof and falling onto them.   This strategy can also damage the roof shingles and granules because they are fragile in cold temperatures.

Melt Sock Method of Preventing Ice Dams

The Melt Sock

 This is a method in which a homeowner places ice melt (calcium chloride) in a thin sock or a pair of pantyhose. They then place this sock on the base of the dam in order to free up an area for water to drain from the roof. This can be risky because it places extra weight on a roof already compromised by damming conditions. It also requires the use of a ladder, which can be risky in blizzard conditions.

When it comes to commercial buildings, many commercial structures utilize metal roofing structures, especially when it comes to creating roof overhangs. Metal roofs heat up quickly, and will often shed large amounts of snow and ice at one moment. This is because the metal has little friction to prevent the snow from sliding. Therefore, it is a good idea to park away from the edge of the building to prevent your car from being damaged by such occurrences. It is also important to keep this in mind when walking near the edge of a commercial building.

When it comes to ice dams, there are no simple or easy solutions. We advise managing roof leaks once they occur and to take preventative measures after the storm has passed and the snow has melted. Preventative measures include assessing your home’s ventilation and insulation, and checking for “hot spots” in the roof. Also, it may be helpful to add material that fully seals the roof to areas that are prone to ice dams and leaking.

If you do find a leak in your house, there are a few steps you should take. It is recommended that you drive a small nail through the drywall in the center of the leak and attach a string form the nail into a bucket. This measure will minimize damage that may occur to your home’s drywall and flooring. Therefore, the repair will be less costly.

To deal with existing ice dams and to prevent from future ice dams and leaks, you should call a local contractor. Avoid the dangers associated with climbing onto your roof when it is covered in slick ice and snow. Snow and ice removal from the roof is not a job for the inexperienced or the faint of heart. If it is done incorrectly, it can cause even more damage to the roof than it might have originally.

 

Ice Dams Snow piled up in the valley is a warning sign of potential ice dam conditions. Icicles are another warning sign.
Ice Dams This is a good illustration of ice damming. The snow melts over the living space and refreezes at the eaves of the home. This is what creates the back up of water.
Ice Dams Snow piled up in the valley is a warning sign of potential ice dam conditions. Icicles are another warning sign.