Cross section of house roof with an ice dam. Source: University of Minnesota

Ice dams are common. The ice that forms inside your gutters and can run down the side of your home may even look aesthetically pleasing. Yet, they also can be unsafe and harmful to your gutters if left unchecked.

Often, ice dams occur when warm air inside your home’s attic transfers outside and melts the snow on your roof. This sitution causes water to end up on gutters or overhangs on your roof where there is less heat. All this melted snow will refreeze and cause a dam of ice in gutters and downspouts that prevents water from running off the roof.

The end result is large icicles running off the edge of your roof. If these icicles and the ice in your gutters become too heavy, it can pull the gutter loose and become unsafe for others passing by. Water can also expand beneath the shingles, loosening them over time and causing leaks.

Ice Dam Solutions — Quick and Long-term

If you find that an inordinate amount of ice buildup in gutters, there are a few quick solutions.

  1. Breaking Up Ice Buildup in the Gutter. One initial temptation may be to break apart the ice dam with a mallet or shovel. But this method is best left to professionals with proper tools. Breaking up ice dams in this manner results in heavy sheets of ice crashing to the ground. This approach can damage property if not done in a controlled way. It also requires a skilled professional to work on top of the roof.
  2. Use Socks Filled with Calcium Chloride. A tried and tested method is to melt the ice dam by filling up tube socks with a 40-lb bag of calcium chloride. This chemical is the key ingredient used to melt snow and ice on walkways and driveways. By putting it in a tube-shaped package like this, it can be placed vertically so it crosses over the dam and overhangs the gutter by about an inch. Over time, this will melt the ice in the channel allowing water to run safely off the roof again.
  3. Steaming Ice Dams. A sure bet to remove ice dams is with professional help. Professional roofers will often have services available to remove ice and snow buildup. They can then steam away ice dams on your home’s gutters using specialized equipment.

Many of these quick ice dam solutions will get the job done. But it is worth taking care of the problem ahead of time so that you can spend less time and money worrying about it. If your roof is low enough, you may be able to use a roof rake to rake off the buildup of snow at the lower end of your roof. However, usually, the long-term fix for ice dams in gutters is attacking the problem at its source — improving the insulation and ventilation in the attic.

If you are looking for more ice dam solutions, or are in need of professional roofers that can help you get rid of ice in your gutters and downspouts, contact Powell’s today.