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Ice Dam Prevention

Ice and snow hanging off roof

Icicles hanging from the eaves of your home’s roof may look dazzling, but they also serve as a warning sign that ice dams may be forming on your roof.

Ice dams usually occur after heavy snowfall and a period of freezing temperatures. Warm air inside your home leaks into the attic and heats up the underside of the roof causing snow and ice on the roof to melt. 

The melted water will then drain along the roof and under the snow until it reaches the cold overhang where the ice buildup prevents it from running off the roof. The water reaches a point where it gets under the shingles and then finds a way into your attic and perhaps eventually to the walls and ceilings below.

Here are some suggestions to prevent ice dams:

  • Make sure your gutters are cleaned before the first snowfall. In the fall, clear all leaves and other debris from your gutters. Clean gutters will also help prevent ice buildup that can cause gutters to break away from the house.
  • Make sure your attic is properly insulated and ventilated so that the underside of the roof and outside air is at the same temperature. You may also need to seal some leaks, especially around air ducts in the attic. Consider hiring a professional to advise you.

Here are safety tips to consider once an ice dam has formed:

  • It’s best not to get on the roof, as it could be very slippery and treacherous—especially with a steep-sloped roof.
  • Avoid “chipping” at the ice. Not only could this cause damage to the roof, but you could be injured by falling ice or debris.
  • If you want to remove snow off the roof and need a ladder, make sure the ladder is anchored properly. That may mean removing snow and ice around the house. To safely remove the snow from the roof, use a long-handled broom or roof rake—but be careful with the roof rake because you don’t want to loosen any shingles.
  • To attack the ice forming near the roof’s edge, find an old pair of panty hose and fill it with a calcium chloride ice melter. Lay the panty hose across the ice buildup on the roof. You may want to use a long-handled broom to push the panty hose into position. The calcium chloride should melt through the ice or snow and create a route for the water to flow off the roof.

For more information, check out the rest of the insurance 101 section of the site, including our glossary of auto insurance terms.

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