Why Can Ice Dams and Icicles Cause Damage?

ice dams and icicles

It is the time of year when icicles start to form on roofs. They may look beautiful, but they are potentially dangerous and can cause damage. Trying to remove these icicles can cause damage to your roof, rip off gutters, and loosen shingles. You need to monitor them and look out for large icicles. They signal a bigger problem with ice dams.

Ice dams and icicles can also cause water damage to your home. The melted water leaks through cracks in the roof decking and flows into the attic space. Here, it can damage the attic floor. From the attic, the water can get into the exterior walls. It also causes staining on the home’s ceiling and peeling paint as it pours into the house. The damage can also later result in mold and mildew.

Causes Of Ice Dam Formation

Icicles result from melting snow that freezes as it drips to the ground. Ice dams are thick ridges of solid ice that form on the roof’s edge. Heat loss from the house causes ice dam formation. The heat collects in the attic space, and if there is no proper insulation, it escapes through the home’s roof.

As the warm air escapes, it encounters snow on the roof that starts to melt. Since the outside air temperature is lower, the water refreezes and causes icicles and ice dams. Apart from the house, the heat loss can also be from air leakage, chimneys, and exhaust systems.

How Icicles and Ice Dams Form

Icicles form when the snow melts and refreezes as it is dripping to the ground. Poor insulation or improper ventilation in your roof and soffit vents will cause warm air to escape. When the air escapes through the roof, it will melt the snow on the roof. As the melted snow and ice drips off the roof edge, it refreezes, leaving icicles hanging.

On sloped roofs, the snow melts, trickling down the roof surface, under the snow layer. As it reaches the edges of the low slope roofs, the water freezes due to the lower temperatures. Over time, a mound of ice builds up to form ice dams. These are thick ridges of solid ice that build up along the roof edge. The formation prevents melting snow water from running off the roof. The water freezes, adding to the size of the ice dam.

How To Prevent Ice Dams

If there’s no heat to melt the ice, it continues to build up. It forms icicles and ice dams that add weight to your gutters. The weight can tear them off and cause significant damage to your house. If it gets under the shingles, it can leak into your home and cause water damage.

Preventing ice dams will require you to take some precautions. You can start by having a professional contractor analyze the attic insulation in your home. They will let you know how much insulation you need to prevent warm air from escaping.

If you do not have enough money for additional insulation in your home, there are other options. You can use these options to prevent ice dams from causing damage.

Using Heated Cables to Prevent Ice Dams

Attaching heated cables in a zigzag pattern along the roof’s edge is a temporary solution to help in preventing ice dams. The solution allows the entire roofing of the house to have a uniform temperature. It heats it from the outside instead of the inside. However, you need to make sure you install the cables before bad weather hits.

Ice Dam Removal

Ice dams prevent water running down the roof from dripping down. The ice damming causes water to build up. The water does not refreeze since the warm air rising from the attic continues to heat it. It backs up, loosens shingles, and leaks into your house.

You can get rid of ice dams in different ways. They include de-icing, blowing in cold air, and raking it.


It involves the use of calcium chloride to melt the ice. However, spreading it over the ice will not work. You need to put it in an old pantyhose and lay it across the ice dam, overhanging the gutter. It will melt the ice providing a channel flow into the gutters or off the roof.

Blowing In Cold Air

It involves using a box fan on the roof’s underside in the attic. Warm air inside the attic keeps melting the snow to form water. The water then leaks into the house through the wet insulation in the roof. You can blow cold air where the water is leaking. It freezes the water and stops the leak in a matter of minutes. There is no more water to continue the ice dam build-up.

Raking It

After stopping the leaking roof and de-icing, you can now remove snow using a roof snow rake. A long, versatile roof rake will remove snow without damaging the shingles. You can get one in hardware stores. Be careful as you do the work. Do not interfere with the power lines.

More Permanent Fixes To Prevent Ice Dam Damage

Permanently getting rid of ice dams is simple. Make sure that the roof has the same temperature as the eaves. There are three ways you can do this. They include sealing all possible air leaks; adding insulation and ventilation. Take care of the usual spots where heat collects and warms the underside of the roof.

You will save energy and enjoy dam-free winters. Even during freezing weather and heavy snowfall, there will be less melting. Ensure you ventilate the eaves and ridges, cap the hatch, add insulation, seal and insulate ducts. Also, remember to replace your old recessed lights with sealed can lights. Bridge the gap between the house framing and the chimney with L-shape flashing.

Seal around vent pipes and electrical cables with a fire-stop sealant. Also, ensure all the ducts from the dryer vents, bathroom, and kitchen lead outside instead of through the soffit.

For more information on why ice dams and icicles can cause damage, visit HotEdge at our office in Denver, Colorado. You can call (877) 220-5066 to book an appointment today.


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