We love our snow here in the Colorado mountains! It is so much fun to ski and snowboard, sled, snowmobile, snowshoe, and just watch it fall while indoors sipping a hot cocoa. Plus we have one of (17).jpg longest winters in the continental United States so to live here is to love it.

But feet and feet of snow falling can create a few issues too – road closures, lots of shoveling, and the dreaded ice dams on our roofs. If you’ve ever walked into your mountain home and found cold melted water had wormed its way into your attic, ceilings, walls and onto your hardwood floors and carpets, you know the dismay and drama that brings. 

So what exactly are ice dams and what causes them?

An ice dam is a ridge or jam up of ice that forms in the eaves or on the edge of your roof that prevents melting snow and water from draining off your roof properly. It typically happens when the temperature varies dramatically between cold freezing temperatures and warm sunny temperatures, creating a melt/thaw cycle. The resulting water that backs up behind the dam can find its way into your mountain home and cause water damage to ceilings, walls, insulation, windows, and other areas of your home. In extreme cases it can also cause damage from the weight of the ice dam to overhangs, gutters and downspouts.

Why does my home get ice dams? (14).jpg

The primary cause of ice dams is a large amount of snow and varying temperatures, which is so typical of the Summit County and Breckenridge area! The flatter your roof, the easier it is for an ice dam to form because the snow, ice, and water doesn’t flow off the roof as readily. Certain areas on roofs such as eaves and other nooks and crannies are prime places for ice dams to form. And any holes, cracks, or openings in your roof are places for water to leak in, so a tightly sealed roof helps prevent an ice dam from creating damage through leaks.

How should I remove an ice dam once it forms? 

Prevention is always the best medicine (see below) but if you do get an ice dam, the key is to get it off your roof as quickly as possible. Remove the ice and snow by breaking it up into small chunks. Be very cautious while doing this for your own safety but also for the safety of your roofing materials. Tap lightly with a blunt mallet or hammer covered with a towel. Hiring a roofing specialist is truly the best option, but if you do it yourself, take your time and be very careful not to cut through shingles, heat tape or pop off your gutter. Clear out the gutters and downspouts as best you can. You can also melt the ice dam with ice melter if you are more patient. You can lay it up on the room, even putting it in an old sock and have it melt through the ice over time. The idea is to clear everything away so that water can run freely the way it was intended to come off your roof and not sit up there stealthily finding its way into your home. 

How can I prevent ice dams in the first place?

This is the best approach – deal with the causes and any issues before they become a big problem for (15).jpgyou (and your HOA or insurance company). One option is to clear your roof from snow each time there is a storm. Snow rakes and brooms work well for this, but again, it’s much safer to hire someone to do this for you rather than risk getting buried in snow or slipping off your roof. 

From the outside, consider replacing your shingle roof with a standing seam or even a metal roof if the aesthetics and your homeowner association rules allow it. There are ways to create a sealed “membrane” underneath your shingles as well that create a sealed area that maintains the look and aesthetic of your existing roof as well which is a wise solution regardless. 

From the inside, it is important you seal all areas where warm air is leaking from your living space into the area just below your roof. More insulation between your rooms and your roof will help prevent your roof getting heated from your home, which coincidentally should help reduce your heating bills! 

Summit County Ice Dam Support

Being a winter sports mecca, of course Breckenridge, Frisco, and all of Summit County have numerous professionals to help you with your ice dam problems. From snow and ice removal, to roof re-construction, to adding insulation and heat tape, you can get the help you need with some of the following professionals. (16).jpg

Prevention resources:

Summit County Snow load matrix can be found on this link