This spotlight article was crafted with the help of Champion Roofing.

If you’re a homeowner living in an area like Chicago, where severe wintry weather is commonplace, you know that the dangers of winter extend far beyond the biting cold. While a warm, toasty home may sound like the perfect remedy for chilly weather, it can inadvertently lead to additional problems, like ice dams. 

We spoke with Harry Friedman, President of Chicago Best Pick Champion Roofing, to learn about the headaches that ice dams can cause for homeowners and, more importantly, about the best ice dam prevention and removal strategies.

Ice Dam Hazards

roof with snow and iciclesIce dams can cause significant damage to your home if left unattended. Despite the name of the phenomenon, the primary source of the problems associated with ice dams is water.

Ice dams form when snow on a roof melts and refreezes at the edges or gutters. Rinse and repeat, and you’ve got yourself a literal ice dam, which then traps and pools the melted snow behind it. 

With nowhere else to go, the water will take advantage of a poorly or improperly sealed roof and begin to work its way into the house. Harry says that the snowmelt “creeps underneath the shingles and leaks back into the house. Dangers are leaking, damage to your drywall, and possible mold growth.”

Significant structural damage can also occur over time if ice dams are allowed to persist. Additionally, ice dams can lead to the formation of icicles, which can cause problems of their own.

Ice Dam Prevention

Though winter itself is inevitable, ice dams need not be. According to Harry, the primary culprits in ice dam formation are “poor insulation and not having water and ice shields installed.”

A well-insulated home will retain more of its heat, which in turn means that less heat will be escaping the home through the roof, preventing any snow that has taken up residence there from melting. 

Harry says, “Right now, if I took you down a block in Chicago, I could tell you who has proper attic insulation and who doesn’t, because you can see it. The homes that still have three feet of snow with none of the snow melting, they have more than enough insulation in their attic. The ones where all the snow’s melted and gone, they don’t have any insulation in their attic because all the heat has escaped and melted the snow.”

In addition to proper insulation, Harry recommends having a water and ice shield installed as one of the best ice dam solutions. A water and ice shield is “a rubberized membrane that goes directly on the roof deck. So even if the ice did back up, instead of riding on the wood deck, the ice is now riding on the waterproof membrane, and it’s not allowing the water to come into the house.” 

Harry says that “newer houses tend to have better insulation and better insulation—plus, newer houses will have water and ice shields, so they definitely have a lot less ice damming than older houses.” He attributes this to updated municipal building code requirements, which have become more popular in the past decade.

Ice Dam Removal

So let’s say that despite your best efforts, an ice dam forms on your roof. What should you do? If you have an ice dam, Harry says, “the next question is, ‘Is it leaking into the home or not?’ If it starts leaking into the home, then you need to call your roofing professional, and they will have to clear off the ice dam. 

We climb up at the gutter edge, and we chop out the ice. You’ve got to get rid of it and create a channel for the water to drain through the ice. Otherwise, it’s going to just continue to create an ice dam.” Roof work is already dangerous enough even without the addition of snow and ice, so let trained roofing professionals handle ice dam removal for you.

Be a Good Neighbor

roof with melting snowIn the spirit of the holiday season, you can now use your newfound knowledge to do some good for your fellow man.

If you’re taking a stroll through your neighborhood and you notice that some of your neighbors have suspiciously snow-free roofs, you might be able to make next year’s Christmas card list by giving them a heads-up.

It’s an easy way to do something nice for someone without having to spend a penny—a win-win if we’ve ever heard one.

This article was crafted with the help of Champion Roofing, a Chicago expert in Roofing. While we strive to provide relevant information to all homeowners, some of the material we publish may not pertain to every area. Please contact your local Best Pick companies for any further area-specific advice.