Everyone loves the look of bright and shimmering icicles hanging off houses during winter. We even go so far as hanging lights to mimic their appearance when they glitter in the sunlight. But behind all that beauty lies a potential problem. Icicles can be a signal of a particularly severe issue with the roof of your home. That issue has a name – ice dams.
If large icicles appear during the winter months, they warrant keeping an eye on, especially those hanging from your home. Icicles form as snow melts. However, the snow may not be melting because the outside air temperature is warm. Rather, it could be that the air underneath is warm -–the air in your attic. If your home is not adequately insulated, particularly in the attic, or you have improper roof ventilation, the heat escapes from your home and melts the snow on your roof. As that cold water flows to your gutters, it refreezes, causing ice dams to form. If the temperatures are low enough, the resulting icicles will not melt, and the icicle will grow larger and larger.
The results? Guttering can tear away from your home due to the heavy weight of the icicles. As the melting snow hits icicles, it can also seep back under your shingles and cause damage along the way. Not only can this result in roof damage, but the water will find a path inside your home. This will cause costly interior damage to the ceiling and walls.
If you only notice icicles on certain areas of your roof, than those areas are problem spots that need attention. If icicles are forming the entire way around your roof, than ice dams are likely forming. Both are cause for taking immediate action to prevent future damage.
So, what can be done to prevent these scenarios? Have a trusted local roofing contractor take a look at your home. They can tell you if you need more insulation in your attic for starters. They can also advise you as to whether the insulation is properly installed and if it is the correct R-value for our region.
There are also some things you can do on your own. Install heat tape inside your gutters and along the edge of your roof. This will help keep melting snow from refreezing and forming icicles in those areas where they can cause the most damage.
After snow events, rake off some snow from your roof. This is something very important to do during heavy snow events. A word of caution: Do NOT go onto the top of your roof to do this. Also, be careful when removing large icicles. Never use a hammer or shovel to do this as you may damage your gutters and shingles in the process.
Remember, icicles are beautiful, but they belong on Christmas cards, not hanging off your roof!