Like it or not, the cold weather is here. With the snow and ice on their way, it is important to keep an eye on your roof.

Ice dams are a common problem on roofs, and can do real damage to the exterior AND interior of your home.

How does an ice dam form?
In the winter (at least here in New York!), the air in your home is much warmer than the outside air. When snow falls on your roof, it forms a barrier. If the warm air from inside your home is able to escape through the roof, it will heat the bottom layer of the snow, which causes it to melt and run down the roof. When the water reaches the colder edge of the roof, it freezes. Over time, an ice dam grows.

Why does an ice dam form?
As we mentioned, ice dams are a direct result of heat leaving your home. There are several reasons this could be happening:

  • Poor insulation in the attic
  • Poor ventilation
  • Improper ventilation
  • Exhaust/Chimney pipes
    • If they are corroded, have holes, or are not up to code, these can be a culprit.
    • This can be dangerous!  In addition to heat leaving the pipes, they often leak Carbon Dioxide which can spread into other areas of your home.
  • Type of home/roof
    • Some homes are designed and built in such a way that they can’t ventilate from the inside (ex: with high cathedral ceilings or finished attic rooms). The roofs of these homes should be adapted to ensure that there is proper ventilation and insulation. If they are not, ice dams can result.

How much damage can an ice dam actually do?
A lot. With the warm air below, and the cold air on top, the ice can be covering a layer of slush and/or water that is trapped underneath and behind the dam. Your roof is not meant to have water sitting on it for extended periods of time–a roof is designed for water to flow off of it. If water sits, it can and will damage shingles, and result in leaks inside your home. This can happen even on a brand-new roof. Additionally, the weight of the dam, and resulting icicles, can cause extensive damage to your gutters.

What is temporary relief for an ice dam?

  • Use a snow rake. These typically can be purchased from home improvement stores, and can be used from the ground. You would remove snow about four feet in from the eaves all around the house. You would continue to do this throughout the winter. Clearing the snow gives the water clear channels to drain.
  • Try calcium chloride tablets to melt some of the ice. Do NOT use salt, as it can damage the shingles. You do not need to melt the entire dam, just enough to allow for channels for the water to drain.
  • Try heating coils. These will also allow for channels for the water to drain. Keep an eye on these, however. If the weather is excessively cold or snowy, they can become less effective.
  • Do NOT try to chip away at the ice dam using tools or anything sharp. This can cause permanent damage to your roof.
  • Do NOT climb on your roof, or allow anyone without insurance on your roof. A roof can be dangerous even under the best of conditions. It is not worth risking your life or health.

What is a permanent solution?
First, you have to determine the cause of the ice dams. Call a professional to evaluate your roof, ventilation, exhaust/chimney pipes, and your home. At Allstate Roofing & More, LLC these evaluations are always free to residential customers.

  • If it is an insulation issue, you can add insulation to your attic.
  • If it is a ventilation issue, your vents may need to be replaced or different types of vents may need to be installed.
  • If it is a compromised chimney/exhaust pipe, they would need to be replaced.
  • If it is the type of home/roof that you have, you might need a cold roof system installed. Essentially, strips will be put down over your existing roof deck, and a second “roof deck” will be installed above those. The shingles and the rest of the roof system will be on the second “roof deck”. This creates space for ventilation, and insulation can also be added between the two decks.

It is very important to note that if you have ever experienced ice dam issues, and are getting ready to put a new roof your home, you should share that information with your roofing contractor. A new roof alone will not stop ice damming issues, and ice dams can damage even a brand-new roof. Your roofing professional will be able to help identify the underlying issue so that it can be addressed at the same time as the new roof. It can also be helpful to ask for an additional row of ice and water shield above the standard rows during installation. This additional row results in the shield covering more of your roof, and helping to eliminate damage if you do experience ice damming.

If you have ice damming issues this winter, Allstate Roofing & More, LLC can help. Contact us anytime at 585-400-7663 or