The Dangers of Ice Damming by Dan Bauer from SERVPRO of the Southtowns

We’re all hoping that 2021 turns out better than 2020 did.

So far, though, the jury’s still out. Among other things, the past week saw the arrival of Winter Storm Uri, a major snow and ice storm that affected nearly the entire country in some way.

In Western New York, we were relatively lucky. We didn’t have blackouts, travel issues or food shortages like much of the country did.

Still, we’re dealing with a weather problem that’s uniquely bad this year because of Uri: ice damming. Last week’s cold temperatures and snowfall, combined with this week’s high temperatures, have created the perfect conditions for damage from ice damming to affect homeowners all across the region.

What is ice damming?

Ice damming occurs when ice builds up on the eaves of a sloped roof in such a way that it prevents further snowmelt from draining properly. Usually, this is caused by warm air from the home melting snow while it’s still cold enough to refreeze once it reaches the home’s gutters. If you see a ton of enormous icicles hanging from your roof or gutters, there’s a good chance you’ve got an ice dam in place.

Why is ice damming dangerous?

On one hand, ice damming can be dangerous to your roof. If the buildup of ice and icicles is heavy enough, it can tear off your gutters and loosen your shingles, leading to problems down the road.

On the other hand, even if there’s no roof damage, ice dams can still prevent snowmelt from reaching your gutters and draining properly. If there’s enough water flowing (say, when temperatures rise above freezing like they’re projected to this week), it can actually back up into your house, causing serious damage to your structure and your stuff, as well as promoting the growth of mold.

What should you do about ice dams?

If possible, proactively clear the ice and snow from your roof. If the damming isn’t significant, this can sometimes be accomplished with a roof rake and a little bit of elbow grease. Installing heated cables is a good long-term fix as well.

But say it’s too late, and there’s already water backing up into your house. How should you respond?

First and foremost, you want to stop further damage from occurring by clearing the snow and ice and repairing and roof leak that might have occurred. For best results, call a roofer – they’ll be able to clear the ice dam safely and effectively.

After that, get your insurance carrier involved. The damage may be covered by your homeowner’s policy.

Your insurance carrier will likely want to get a mitigation and restoration company like SERVPRO of The Southtowns involved. We’ll be able to take moisture readings and figure out exactly how wet your structure is, as well as where the moisture is located. If drying is needed, we can kick the process off immediately, and if any demolition is required (say, cutting open drywall to dry out the wall cavity), our reconstruction team can put it back together as well.

Above all, it pays to be proactive. Your best bet is to clear snow and ice before it becomes a problem. A little bit of roof raking now can pay dividends down the road.