10 Things You May Not Know About Ice Dams

The winter of 2014-15 is already making its mark on America. Boston may break its all-time record for most snowfall in a season; while February was the snowiest month in Denver’s history. Many other cities and regions have been walloped by cold weather and precipitation; in fact, one seven-day forecast called for at least some snow in every single U.S. state (yes, even Florida and Hawaii).

While heavy snowfall caused a lot of travel angst and necessitated the use of snowblowers and shovels, it didn’t lead to widespread roof damage across the country. That’s because almost all residential roofs are built to withstand snowpacks that are heavier than almost every snow event recorded.

What did cause significant damage wasn’t the snow itself, but the ice dams that came afterward. These ridges of ice develop near rooflines and inhibit proper snowmelt, which can lead to leaks and water damage inside homes.

Ice dams
When ice dams form the ice and snow doesn’t melt and run off – which could cause exterior damage to your home.


Think you’re well-informed when it comes to ice dams? Here are ten facts about them that you may not be aware of:

  1. They don’t need much snow. Even when most of the snow on your roof has melted, an ice dam can still remain along the edge of your roof.
  2. They don’t even need much ice. Though ice dams can become fairly thick, it only takes about an inch of ice to cause problems – especially for roofs with gentle pitches.
  3. They can form on upper stories as well. If you have a separate roof above your second or third floor, it’s possible for ice dams to develop in those areas too.
  4. Gutters don’t matter. Ice dams can be found on rooflines even when no gutters are present. While ice can form inside gutters and merge with ice dams, guttering isn’t a requirement for the formulation of ice dams.
  5. Icicles are a telltale sign. If you see bulky or long icicles forming on your roofline, chances are good that they’re being supported by an ice dam. (These icicles are also dangerous if they break off and fall on someone.)
Ice dams
Think there’s an ice dam up there somewhere?


  1. The main cause of ice dams? Heat. It sounds counterintuitive, but escaping heat from your attic or crawlspaces melt the snow on your roof, where it runs down and freezes on your colder roofline. That’s why it’s important to insulate these interior spaces.
  2. Quality insulation is better than quantity. You can install all of the insulation you want, but if you still have warm air escaping into the attic or roof space from your home’s interior, you’ll still be battling ice dams.
  3. Pantyhose are just a stopgap measure. Filling up nylons with rock salt and placing them perpendicularly to your roofline near your roof’s edge may help melt ice dams. But this approach only treats the symptoms rather than the underlying problem of improper ventilation.
  4. Water damage takes time. If you do see cracks, stains, peeled paint, warped wood, or other signs of water damage in your home, chances are the water has been inside for awhile. The melt-freeze cycle allows water to migrate through openings and into your home, but it often moves around ceiling and wall cavities until it finds the right place to escape.
  5. Heat cables can help. A self-regulated heated cabling system (like Helmet Heat) can warm up your roofline and melt snow and ice before ice dams can form.
Ice dams
Looks like someone needs Helmet Heat on their home.

If you want more information on the Helmet Heat gutter protection system, contact Lednor Home Solutions today at 1-888-5-HELMET, or fill out this online form for a free on-site cost estimate.

Written by Del Thebaud

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