Do Icicles Indicate the Risk of Ice Damming?

Large icicles are one indicator of ice dams along your roof. It is something to worry about because dams can be a major cause of winter damage to your home, requiring costly repairs.

Removing the dams yourself takes caution, time and physical exertion. Hiring the work to be done is expensive. The best approach is to prevent the situation before it starts.

Signs of Ice Damming
If you see small icicles on gutters and along the roof line, you probably don’t have to worry. If you can’t see water trapped behind the icicles, there is likely no damming.

However if you see large icicles, you need to check if water is behind them, a sign that you are dealing with an ice dam. You will need to remove it or hire someone to do it.

Not only do ice dams cause expensive moisture damage to the roof, attic and your home’s interior, the icicles themselves are a danger. A person walking by can get seriously injured if they fall.

The Cause of Ice Damming
The cause is melting snow or ice on your roof from the heat escaping your home’s interior through the attic. As the ice and snow melts, it drips down to the edge of the roof. Cold temperatures cause it to freeze again.

This process creates the ice dam, preventing moisture from running harmlessly off the side of the roof. As more snow melts, the only place it can disburse is through the roof and into your attic.

Preventing Ice Damming
In order to prevent the problem, you need to reduce the amount of heat that rises to the attic, which warms the roof and melts the snow.

You do this with a two-step process:

insulating the attic and

ventilating it.

Insulating the attic means starting with its floor. It should be airtight to prevent heat from the lower floors penetrating into the attic.

Openings also need to be closed off. The gaps around exhaust pipes and air vents need to be insulated to prevent warm air from escaping into the upper areas. Use weather stripping and caulking to close gaps around fireplaces, chimneys and light fixtures.

Be sure the attic is well ventilated. Install vents for eaves, soffits, ridges and gables. Consider using an attic fan to keep the air circulating. A well ventilated attic not ony helps to prevent damage due to ice dams, but also helps to extend the life of your roof.

Together with a well insulated attic, proper ventilation lets enough cold air in to minimize your chances of an ice damn.