Iced Out: 3 Warning Signs of an Ice Dam

Dec 07, 2016

One of the biggest threats to your roof’s structural integrity comes in the form of winter weather. To protect your roof from seasonal damage, you should take the tips outlined in our blog “Is Your Roof Ready for Winter? Add These 3 Tasks to Your Fall Checklist” and pay attention to the condition of your roof during the cold months.

When you inspect your roof over the winter, identifying any ice dams should be your primary concern. An ice dam consists of frozen runoff that has built up at the edge of your roof or in your gutters.

In this blog, we list three warning signs that an ice dam has developed on your roof.

1. Hot Spots

Ice dams form over time as the result of snow on your roof melting and refreezing. This process often starts around areas that are known as hot spots. A hot spot occurs when heated air escapes out to your roof, such as the section around vents or a skylight.

To check for hot spots, go outside after it has just snowed. If you can already see areas where your roof is free of snow, your roof has a high risk of ice dams. Take note of where the bare patches occur since these locations are likely to be hot spots.

2. Leaks in Your Home’s Interior

Because ice dams inhibit normal drainage off of your roof, they can cause water damage inside your home. You may notice new stains, ceiling cracks, or sections of peeling paint.

Serious ice dams can even create actively dripping leaks, usually on the uppermost floor of your home.

This water damage is most likely to occur within a few feet of the exterior wall, directly below where water has backed up due to the dam.

3. Unusually Large Icicles

Many homeowners believe that any icicles on the edge of the roof can indicate the presence of an ice dam. This myth is generally false, but abnormally large icicles can result directly from an ice dam.

Assess the appearance of the icicles on your home. Do the icicles appear to hang directly from the top of your roof where the shingles are or from your gutter troughs? These icicles may have formed due to a dam. Additionally, icicles that resemble a wave coming over the edge of your roof are likely connected to a large ice structure.

Small icicles and icicles that form on the underside of your roof or gutters are unlikely to have been caused by an ice dam.

How Should You Address Ice Dams?

If you notice any combination of the signs listed above, your roof likely has an ice dam. You may be able to decrease any leaks in your home by placing a fan beneath the leak. As the cold air comes in contact with the water, the water may freeze and plug up the hole long enough for you to schedule a professional inspection.

Because winter roofs can be slippery, do not attempt to melt an ice dam yourself. Instead, have a professional assess the issue. Your roofing contractor may apply a melting agent like calcium chloride or get rid of the dam using heated steam.

Let your contractor know if you have noticed any leaks or hot spots, as these areas may require immediate repair to reduce the risk of future ice dam formation.

Learn more about how ice dams form and how you can prevent them in our “Ice Dams” post.

If you notice an ice dam or damage from seasonal weather conditions, contact a reputable roofing contractor as soon as possible.