ICE DAM: What are They?
Since You Asked
Betsy from Grand Rapids asked: What exactly are ice dams?
That seems simple enough to answer, an ice dam is formed when you have a lot of heat loss through your roof causing snow to melt and run down, but then freezes as it gets close to the edge of the roof. This can be seen by blocks of ice on the edge of a roof, or large ice sickles that hang from the roof. Easy enough to explain, however they can cause big problems.
When you get an ice dam the snow that continues to melt will get trapped by the dam and have no place to go it can then back up under your shingles causing a leak. Many roof leaks in the late winter early spring are from ice dams.
To prevent ice dams, the first step is to limit the amount of heat loss through your roof. Making sure you are insulated well enough is key. The next is to get rid of the snow on the bottom of the roof before it turns to ice. You can use roof rakes or brooms, but make sure you are safe on a slipper roof. If you already have ice making channels through the ice dam allows the water behind the dam to drain off the roof. You can hose tap water on a warm day to cut through the ice. Work upward from the lower edge of the dam. However, the channel will become ineffective within days and is only a temporary solution to ice dam damage.