The temperatures are falling and with it, snowflakes. Later this winter, we’ll begin to see icicles hanging off the eaves and gutters of some of our homes as well. Though you may not think twice about them, icicles can be a bad sign as far as the health of your home is concerned.
What Are Ice Dams
Ice dams are exactly what they sound like: A dam of ice that forms on your roof, preventing melted snow from draining away. They often form right along the edge of the roof, but can also form on flat areas, overhangs, and valleys. As time goes by, the water held back by the ice dam freezes, making the dam bigger and preventing more runoff. The weight of the accumulated ice can result in roof damage or even cause it to collapse altogether. The water can also seep into your roof, walls, ceilings, floors, insulation and more, causing structural damage, and potentially resulting in toxic mold growth.
What Homes Are At Risk for Ice Dams
Homes in the northern portions of the United States, such as Wisconsin and Minnesota, are at risk for ice dams and the resulting water damage. Older homes are more prone to an ice dam and water damage due to the likelihood they may have insulation and ventilation issues.
What Homeowners Insurance Covers
Homeowner’s insurance policies can be helpful when ice dams form, but only after your home has already been damaged. Your coverage will likely pay for the water damage and may help you repair the roof after the fact. They might even help you pay to remove an existing ice dam if it’s presently causing damage to the home. If you have an ice dam but the damage hasn’t occurred yet, insurance will not likely pay to have it removed, the responsibility and expense to have it removed is on the homeowner. For this reason, it is much better to take the steps necessary to prevent an ice dam in the first place.
Ice Dam Prevention
Unlike other disasters, with some preparation, you can prevent ice dams and the water damage they cause. Before winter settles in, make sure your roof is well-insulated and the attic has good ventilation. Having proper insulation and ventilation will prevent the thaw/freeze cycle that causes ice dams. You should also clean the gutters in the fall so water, rain, and melted snow can flow off the roof and onto the ground. Finally, remove snow with a roof rake or shovel any time you see 6 inches or more of snow accumulate on top of your home.
Ice Dam Removal
It’s a bit harder to remove ice dams once they have been formed, but once you know you have one, it’s best to remove it as soon as possible to prevent any further damage. You can begin by removing any built-up snow. Roof rakes can work for single-story homes with pitched roofs. If the home is more than one story, has a flat roof, or it has a lot of snow and ice buildup, it’s best to shovel it off. Because roof work is dangerous, you may want to hire a professional roof snow removal company. Once the snow has been removed, the ice can be removed by lightly chipping away at the heaviest areas, making sure not to damage the shingles. You may also want to try using “ice melt”.
On a closing note, ice dams aren’t the only problem caused by ice and snow. There are homeowners insurance liability claims filed every year due to falling icicles, as well as slip and fall injuries on icy surfaces caused by dripping icicles.
Do yourself a favor and take the steps necessary to prevent ice dams altogether, you’ll be glad you did.