The Professional Choice

A companion overview to the popular "Ask Mr. Handyman" radio program airing on Christian Talk Radio, KCRO 660AM Saturdays @ 9:30AM.

Monday, January 13, 2014

Preventing Ice Dams

How Ice Dams Form
Winter is in full swing here in the plains states with more snow expected.  A few inches or more of snow can cause ICE DAMMING.  Ice damming happens when snow builds up on the lower 3 feet of roof line, above the extended eaves. What happens is the upper part of the roof starts to melt and the moisture drains down to the lower section that does not melt and gets "dammed up." Basically water pools above the ice and backs up into the home (comes through the roof). Roofs were made to drain off water, not pool water.

Extensive damage can happen in homes if ice damming occurs. Replacement of ceilings, walls and insulation can be very costly. Insurance will probably cover some of these costs but deductibles, replacement time, time off work, coordination hassles etc. will make it well worth the expense to prevent ice damming in the first place.

The most common cause of ice damning is poor insulation or poor ventilation in the attic area.  Both issues are solved at the same time when you hire a professional service company to tackle this issue for you.  There may be other factors in play like a huge amount of snow fall.  A snow rake could be used to remove the loose snow at the eaves of your house or a drift in a valley that remains way too long.    

A weaving pattern of electrical heat tape is a common fix but should only be installed as a last resort and installed by a professional service company.  To extend the life of the heat tape it should only be turned on during the periods of time snow or ice is present on the roof.  

If you are a Do-It-Yourself type of homeowner, here are a few tried and true tips for the occasional ice dam.  If you have some old panty hose laying around the house you could fill them with "Ice Melt" (must be calcium chloride, not rock salt) and lay them vertical on the ice dam. The point is to make several vertical breaks through the ice dam so melted snow has a place to drain off the roof.  

If your gutters are full of ice and overhanging with icicles, use the pantyhose trick and lay them on top of the ice along the gutter line.  The ice will eventually melt and clean up the ice dam.  These are great tips for the adventurous but the best overall method is to remove the loose snow right away.

If you have had ice dams on your roof in the past chances are you will have them again unless you took corrective measures to prevent them.  Call Mr Handyman @ 402.502.5212 before it happens again.  Mr. Handyman can help you solve this issue.