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Protect your home from ice damming this season

Every time it snows, you have your trusty routine.  You start with the driveway.  When that’s done, you move on to your walkways.  If you’re feeling particularly energetic or charitable (or both), you’ll tackle a little more of the sidewalk than necessary.  And when it’s all done, you head back inside to enjoy the warmth and possibly a much-deserved hot chocolate.

Are you sure you haven’t missed anything?  If you haven’t addressed the thick blanket of snow on your roof, then the answer is yes. 

In our eagerness to clear snow from the ground, many of us don’t give a thought to the snow on our roofs.  Sure, snow covered roofs look so charming on those holiday cards that you may still have on display above the fireplace, but this is real life – and in real life, snow on your roof can end up causing damage to both the exterior and interior of your home by way of something called ice damming. 

What causes ice damming? 

Ice dams are not built by industrious beavers who have secretly decided to take up winter residence on your roof.  An ice dam is created when rooftop snow melts during sunny, milder days and then freezes again at night around the edges or eavestroughs as the temperature drops.  

With every cycle, this barrier of ice gets bigger, and it prevents further melting snow from draining off your roof.  This is where the problem lies.  When water has no way of getting off your roof, it pools there and backs up under the shingles.  From there, it can sneak down into your home and cause damage to wood framing, insulation, ceilings, wall finishes, furnishings and personal belongings. 

On the outside, ice dams are not only a safety concern (falling ice, anyone?) – they can also cause damage to eaves and lead to the buildup of a white, powdery residue (known as efflorescence) on concrete and brickwork.

Your warranty may cover problems associated with ice damming if they are the result of a building defect.

What you can do 

The best thing you can do is to prevent ice dams before they happen. If you Image removed.currently have ice buildup on your roof and want it removed, consider hiring an experienced professional to do it for you.     

Long term measures

If you’re thinking ahead to next winter, and the ones after that, there are a couple of long-term measures you can take to prevent ice damming.  First, you can ensure that your attic space is well insulated, properly ventilated, and sealed off from air leaking into it from living spaces.  If your attic is too warm, it may be contributing to the extent of ice damming on your roof. 

Another thing you can do is to install heated cables along the roof edge that will melt snow and ice as it accumulates. 

What you should not do

If you’re thinking of taking out the ladder and climbing up onto the roof with a shovel, stop right now.   Not only can you damage your roof, you can seriously hurt yourself.  Throwing salt or de-icing chemicals on roof ice is also a bad idea, as this may cause shingles to deteriorate.  

Protect your home, and yourself too.  Make clearing snow from your roof in a safe manner part of your winter maintenance routine, or take steps to ensure that your home is safeguarded against ice damming.