Beware ice dams!
Ice Dams on Rooftop
Credit: YinYang/Getty Images

We're not out of the woods yet! Unfortunately, just because the snow has stopped falling doesn't mean it's done wreaking havoc. Consistently low temperatures mean that the snow that settled on your roof might be hanging out there for a while, posing a significant risk.

In a recent release from the Insurance Institute for Business & Home Safety (IBHS), experts warn that the accumulation of snow on your roof can cause ice dams and seriously damage your home.

"Ice dams form in cold weather when there is a layer of snow on the roof. Heat within the house rises into the attic and warms the roof. The snow on the roof melts a bit, and water runs under the snow down to the roof edge," Remington Brown, senior engineering director with IBHS, explained on the IBHS website. "The lower edge of the roof tends to be coldest because it extends past the warm interior of the house and does not get as much of the structure's heat. At the lower edge, a bit of the water refreezes under the snow and forms a thin layer of ice."

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Brown continued: "When that happens again and again, the thin layer builds up and an ice dam is created. Over time, the ice dam expands to the point where it holds back a pool of water on the roof. The growth of the dam can force that water under the roof coverings such as shingles. From there, the water may find its way into the attic or down the walls of the house."


To avoid this, the organization recommends following the following steps:

  1. From the ground, use a snow rake, ideally with wheels, to remove snow from the roof. The wheels keep the blade of the rake above the roof cover to minimize scraping. Be careful to avoid any areas where power lines enter your home.
  2. Alternately, hire an established, licensed, insured professional to remove the snow from your roof.
  3. Use professionally installed, heating cables on eaves, gutters, and downspouts, or around roof drains on flat roofs. Make sure the heating cables are UL Listed, FM Approved, or CSA Certified. These cables won't remove an ice dam, but they will create effective channels that allow water to drain off safely.

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