As Old Man Winter continues his iron-fisted reign over New England, you should be wary of potential, costly damage to your home. So let’s talk about ice: the good, the bad… and the pretty.
Okay, so besides being pretty to look at, there’s not a whole lot of “good” when it comes to icicles. Beyond their attractive shine, icicles are a sign that something bad could be happening to your roof.
Icicles are the byproduct of an ice dam: a buildup of ice in gutters and roof overhangs. Ice dams form when it’s warm enough for the snow on the top of a roof to melt, but still cold enough for water to refreeze once it runs onto the eaves of the roof. Once refrozen, the ice blockage causes water to be pushed back up under the shingles, often resulting in damaged shingles, sagging gutters, stained ceilings and peeling paint.
If icicles are hanging from your roof, there’s a high chance an ice dam is clogging the gutter. To remove the ice dam, there are a few recommended techniques:
- Use a roof rake from the ground to carefully chip away at the ice. Be careful not to damage your roof.
- Fill a nylon sock with calcium chloride – a melting agent – and lay it across the ice dam. The agent will create a channel by melting the ice and allowing water to drain through the dam. Calcium chloride can be found at your local hardware store. Do not use rock salt because it can be harmful to the roof.
Since working on or below a roof during the winter can be dangerous, the safest option is to call a professional to take care of any ice dams.
The most effective way to deal with ice dams is to prevent them from happening in the first place.
Immediately following a snowstorm, a short term solution is to use a roof rake to clear off the first three to four feet of snow to prevent it from refreezing in the gutters – be sure to also clear debris out of downspouts so the gutters can properly drain.
A long term solution for ice dams is to keep the attic cold. By keeping the air in the attic cold, the snow on the roof is less likely to melt and run down to the gutter.
In order to keep the attic cold, it must be sufficiently insulated. An inadequately insulated attic will have cracks where the roof meets the exterior wall. This is where warm air leaks through, keeping the roof heated. So, inspect this area and if you find cracks, seal them with spray foam or sheets of rigid foam insulation. There is more information online to help you prepare:
Although foam insulation can get pricy depending on the size of your attic, the benefit of preventing ice dams – and potentially water damage to your home – is worth the cost.
Headquartered in Boston, Bunker Hill Insurance provides home, condo and renters insurance to customers in Massachusetts and Connecticut. Bunker Hill is a member of The Plymouth Rock Group of Companies, which together write and manage over $1 billion in property and auto insurance throughout the northeast.