With the approach of some serious winter weather this weekend, this is a good time to look up and see how your roof is handling the snow and ice that will soon be falling. Ice build-up on your home’s roof can cause a number of dangerous situations during the winter, so knowing what causes it and how to prevent it can be important for keeping your family and home safe.

What Causes Ice Build Up

There are a few different ways that ice can build up during the winter. The most basic ice buildup is just a thin layer of ice that covers large portions of the house, sometimes accompanied with snow. This shouldn’t really raise any alarms. What is important to look out for are large icicles, sheets of ice and snow that build up on the roof, frozen gutters and accumulations of ice at the edge of the roof, known as an ice dam. These can be unsafe to your and your home.


When ice freezes in your gutters, it places extra strain on the screws or clips holding the gutters in place. Overflow can result in icicles hanging from the gutters, and if the accumulation gets too heavy, it can actually pull the gutters away from your house. This is particularly dangerous because that heavy ice can then fall to the ground, damaging landscaping below, or your head if you are unlucky!

Ice Dams

If a portion of your roof becomes warm enough to melt some of the snow and ice on top of it, an ice dam can form. That melted snow or ice will trickle down the roof, reaching the eaves or gutter and then refreeze. This process continues until there is a buildup of ice at the end of the roof, with melted water trying to flow underneath. This can force the ice into your gutters, and the water under your shingles, and through roofing materials as the freeze/melt process causes the moisture to contract and expand. The longer the process goes on, the more damage it can cause.

Other Forms of Ice

Ice sheets and icicles also present dangers during the winter. Icicles form when liquid water gradually drips at the same spot over time, freezing more and more until it grows large enough to potentially break free and fall to the ground. Ice sheets form similarly to ice dams, but instead of melting entirely the heat of the roof only melts a small portion of the ice sitting on  it. The remaining ice is able to shift under its own weight due to the thin layer of water underneath it, and in some cases may slide down the rood and fall to the ground. Yikes!

Removing Ice Build-Up

Remember when attempting any home repairs or maintenance, the first rule is safety first! never use any sharp instrument as it can damage your roof, gutters, or walls. Instead, tap away the ice with a blunt mallet or pole. Work in small sections, making sure that there is always someone with you to brace the ladder in case the ice shifts. Calcium Chloride ice melter can be used on the ice beforehand, be sure to not use rock salt or any other chemicals as they can damage your home. 

How to Prevent Ice Build-Up

To prevent ice accumulation on your roof, work on improving the ventilation in your attic to ensure even heating. You may want to consult an energy efficiency expert to see if there are any other steps you should take.  Having your gutters cleaned thoroughly each fall will help melted water drain properly and not damming up. A snow rake can be used to remove snow and ice build-up  from the roof before it can become a problem. If you have a continuing problem with ice building up, you may consider replacing some or all of your existing roof with a long lasting metal roof with water repellent membrane underneath.

Be Safe!

Removing built up ice dams and sheets of ice can be dangerous. If you are not careful, you can also damage shingles or your roof’s integrity in the process. Let us know if you are in need of a professional to address your snow and ice build up, and to repair any damage that may have already been caused. We have had the pleasure of working with a number of reliable roofing pros in the past that have done great work for our clients!

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