Ice Dam FAQs
Q: The isn’t much snow on my roof. Could I still have an ice dam problem?
A: Yes. Ice dams can occur with virtually no snow on your roof. It’s really a question of ice accumulations, and it takes very little actual moisture for ice dams to form. Of course, thick snow accumulations will cause ice dams to form more quickly, but even a dusting of snow can create a problem.
Q: If I can’t see any ice dams from ground level, am I OK?
A: No, Not always. While it’s true that the monstrous two foot icicles and glacier-like formations on your gutter can be easily seen from the ground, there can also be smaller ones that are just as destructive above skylights or in roof pan areas far out of sight. Sometimes ice dams grow up valleys and on top of dormers that are almost impossible to see from the ground.
Q: If I don’t see any problems in my home’s interior, could I still have a problem?
A; Yes. The leaking caused by ice dams may not show up right away. Often the water that is push into homes by ice dams travels around wall and ceiling cavities, trapped by vapor barriers and other materials until it finds the path of least resistance to escape. By the time you see water inside, it’s usually been there for a while.
Q: I can see an ice dam on my roof but it’s fairly thin. Should I still be concerned?
A: Yes. Ice dams as thin as one inch can cause big problems, especially on low-pitched roofs. On lower pitched roofs even a thin ice dam can hurt. A good general rule is that the steeper your roof, the thicker the ice dam has to be to cause problems.
Q: My House DOESN’T have gutters. Can ice dams still develop?
A: Yes. Gutters have nothing whatsoever to do with ice dams. A home that is prone to ice dams will still get them with or without gutters. If you have gutters they will fill with ice and provide a foundation for the ice dam above. If you don’t have gutters, the ice dam simply builds on the cold edge of the roof. Every winter we remove ice dams for homes that do not have gutters.
Q: My house DOES have gutters. Can ice dams damage them?
A: Yes. Gutter systems can be damaged by ice. Ice weighs about 60 pounds per cubic foot and gutters are not designed to carry that much weight. Every winter we often find a segment of otherwise fine gutter either on the ground or dangling precariously from the edge of the roof, filled with ice.
Q: Is steam the best method to remove ice dams?
A: Yes. Absolutely. Ice should always be removed with steam. Well-intentioned individuals often try hammers, picks and hatchets to remove ice dams, but the damage caused by these methods is very serious. We strongly advise against the hack-a-teer approach even if seems to be a little cheaper. In the end, it is not. Again, ice dams should always be removed with steam.
Q: Can I use “salt socks” to solve my ice dam problem?
A: No. Sometimes people use old socks, hosiery, and store-bought cloth tubes filled with a variety of ice-melting compounds to remove ice dams. While corrosive substances like rock salt, sodium chloride, calcium chloride, magnesium chloride and more CAN melt through ice dams, there are significant risks. Some of these chemicals damage the integrity or color of your roof. Or corrode your gutters, valley metal, and other flashings. Or damage plant life as the water drains below. You are taking on serious risks when you go this route.