What is Roof Ice Damming and How Can I Prevent It?

 roof ice dammingHanging icicles can make for a festive winter scene at your home, but they can be dangerous to people if they fall off and could be the sign of a larger issue going on with your roof – ice damming!

What is roof ice damming?

Simply put, it is the buildup of ice on your roof that prevents water from draining properly and causes it to seep into your home, causing significant damage to ceilings, walls, and beams.

How does this happen?

Usually the poor ventilation of some attics causes the air in the attic to be warm enough to melt roof snow, causing the water to run down the roof before refreezing underneath areas like gutters and eaves. This ice keeps building up until the water has nowhere else to go but into your home!

The good news is that there are actually some very simple steps you can take to prevent ice dams from forming and damaging the structural areas of your home:


  • Knock off any hanging icicles or ice buildup around your gutters.
  • A good rule of thumb – if there is more than a foot of snow on your roof, you should get it off. Use a roof rake to clear off snow after every storm. Can’t reach your roof? Hire a contractor; the cost of snow removal is much less than the cost of roof or interior structural damage.
  • Call a contractor to find out if you have ice dams on your roof. A professional will know exactly what to look for.
  • Clear out the area around your downspouts so gutters can properly drain when snow and ice melt.
  • Long-term prevention to consider: Insulate your attic to prevent the melting and refreezing that causes ice dams. Seal spots where warm air from your home seeps into the attic (light fixtures, exhaust fans, vent pipes, etc). Consider installing a water-repellant membrane as an extra barrier under the shingles if you have your roof replaced.

If you find the buildup of ice indicating an ice dam, don’t assume the water has already soaked through your roof and into your ceiling and walls. To determine if ice damming has damaged your home, look for water and moisture stains in the attic, especially around the tops of the exterior walls.

If you have located ice dams on or around your roof, there are several methods of eliminating them:


  • 2273617793_dbc8232284_zUse a roof rake to try and knock the dam off, or cut a channel through the ice to allow any water to drain.
  • Placing a stocking full of calcium chloride ice melts (not rock salt – this will damage your roof) vertically to make a channel through the dam.
  • Chip away at the ice dam until it is removed and then take the preventative measures mentioned above.
  • If you suspect damage to your home as a result of roof damming, call and get an expert analysis from a licensed claims professional at O’Brien Insurance.

Any home that experiences cold winter climates has the potential to experience roof damage caused by roof ice dams. If you need help filing a claim in Glens Falls or the surrounding areas, or you want our help to get you the best homeowners insurance coverage at the best price, join the O’Brien family today!

Call us today to find out how your Trusted Choice® Glens Falls NY insurance agent can help you protect your most valuable investment – your home. Over 1,800 families and individuals in Warren, Washington, Saratoga, and Hamilton counties can’t be wrong. Just read some of our testimonials!

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