Removing Snow and Ice Dams From Your Roof

What is an ice dam?

An ice dam is when melting snow re-freezes at the edge of your roof and can prevent any water or snow from draining off the roof. This can cause water to make its way under the shingles and into your home. In New Jersey and other states with cold winters, this can be a real problem.

Immediate steps you can take:

-Clear downspouts. Make sure the area around your downspouts is clear. This way your gutters will be sure to drain once the snow begins to melt, preventing flooding.

-Remove snow from your roof after every storm. Using a roof rake, clear three to four feet of snow from the edge of your roof immediately after each storm. The age and condition will cause a variation in the amount of snow a roof will hold, but it is a good idea to remove anything over a foot of snow and/or ice.

Longer-term prevention:

It is always better to prevent ice dams from ever forming on your roof so you don’t have to worry about removing them after a storm.

-Insulate your attic. Keep your attic well-insulated to prevent the cycle of melting and freezing that causes ice dams to form. Seal any place that could let warm air leak in, including vent pipes, exhaust fans, chimneys, attic hatches and light fixtures.

-Install a water-repellent membrane. A water membrane underneath the shingles is an additional step to keeping water on the roof and out of your home.

Removing snow from your roof

Always remember to make safety your first priority, especially on a roof covered in snow and ice. If you are unsure of the safety, call someone to professionally remove the snow and ice.

If you have a flat roof that can be easily reached through an inside stairway, shoveling the roof is an ideal option.

-If you have a sloped roof, try to use a roof rake to remove as much snow as you can reach.You don’t necessarily have to remove all the snow, but removing the first three to four feet of snow closest to the edges will prevent ice buildup.

-If you cannot reach the roof, find a trusted contractor that can provide these services.

Using a ladder in snowy and icy conditions is not recommended. If you feel you need a ladder, hire a professional.

Removing Ice Dams

Ice dams do not always mean there is water inside your home. However,they should be removed before they have the opportunity to cause any damage. Be sure to check for water stains and moisture in the attic and around the ceiling edges on the top floor.

-If you can reach the roof safely, use a roof rake to try to knock the ice dams off or to cut a channel through them, allowing water to drain properly.

-If you cannot reach the roof safely, consider hiring a contractor to remove it.

-If you cannot reach the roof or hire a contractor, fill a nylon stocking with calcium chloride ice melt. Place this vertically across the ice dam to melt a channel. Make sure you can safely position the ice melt on your roof. Be sure to use calcium chloride, not rock salt, which will will damage your roof. Also, be aware that the calcium chloride may damage plants and shrubbery near the downspout.

-Remember to look carefully at large icicles. Icicles confined to the gutters without water trapped behind them are not indicative of a dam. Large icicles are still a danger to people should they fall, so try to safely knock the icicles off, making sure not to stand directly beneath them. If you cannot reach them safely from the ground, consider hiring a contractor to help.

In general, the owner of the property is responsible for the cost of preventative maintenance. The cost of snow removal is likely to be far less than the cost to fix any water or ice damage done to the roof or interior of the home.

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