Ice Dams – Winnipeg Winters

Ice Dams: What are they? What Damage do they Cause? What is the Solution?

What are they?

If you aren’t familiar with ice dams, they are large chunks of ice that form around the edges of your roof. This can occur when there is significant cold and moisture during the winter months. Even if you have downspouts and gutters, it isn’t enough to prevent them from occurring. They are created when the area of your roof located above the attic gets warm.

ice dam winnipegThis results in the layer of snow or ice underneath to begin to melt. The water moves between the shingles and the remaining layers of snow. It will reach the eaves area of your roof which is much colder. The water will freeze again due to the colder temperatures and turn into a growing chunk of ice.

If you have a flat pitch roof, the risk of ice dams is higher than with other designs. However, that isn’t the only type of roof this creates problems for. Your gutters are there to help take water away from the home but that doesn’t always happen. The gutters can actually become a place where snow gets trapped. It can also be a place where water is trapped and then it turns into ice. In fact, that can be the starting point for ice dams to build upon.

What Damages can they Cause?

The overall damages to your structure from ice dams can be significant. In addition to damaging your roof, they can also destroy your gutters and downspouts. It isn’t uncommon for them to damage the side of your home or even to cause leaking and damage into your home. As the size of the ice dam grows, water that continues to melt gets backed up behind it.

The force for this water is going to cause it to start being absorbed into the shingles of your roof. It will reach the insulation and next it will start to cause water damaged for your exterior walls and your ceilings. This can ruin your sheetrock, paint, and rot the wood of the structure behind the walls and under the roof.

If the ice dam isn’t removed, it will start to come off in pieces due to the weight of it. However, it will also fall of your house with shingles or pieces of your gutters it has attached to. It may fall onto your trees or shrubs or even break a window. If people or pets are below they can be hurt by the falling debris. Cars can be hit too depending on where your driveway is located.


If you already have ice dams forming, you need to take immediate action to remove them. Break the ice into smaller pieces by tapping it with a small mallet. Avoid using sharp tools because they will damage your shingles underneath the ice. It is highly recommended that you hire a roofing expert to do this job because it is very dangerous and time consuming.

Once all of the ice is removed, the shingles should be carefully accessed for any damages. If there are problems they should be taken care of right away. The gutters and downspouts need to be cleaned out to prevent debris from clogging them and allowing ice to form again. If they have ice in them, add ice melt but not rock salt. If you use the rock salt it will damage your paint, plants, and more.

Some people get on their roof every time it snows to remove the accumulation but that can be very dangerous. You don’t want to get buried in the snow, get frostbite, or slide off the roof and get hurt. Another option is to replace your shingle with a metal roof or one with a standing seam. Make sure anything you replace the shingles with is water repellant.
Even though these are solutions, they don’t solve the problem. They only treat the symptoms of the situation. You will always have to engage in these practices to avoid future ice dams or damages from them.

Don’t get caught up in one of the quick fixes out there for ice dams. You need a solution proven to work. It is important to take action to prevent them from occurring. A combination of three efforts all intertwined can be your best outcome. This includes:

• Excellent sealing – seal all areas where warm air can leak into your home.
• Quality insulation – make sure you aren’t losing heat through your ceiling.
• Proper venting of the eaves and in the attic – this prevents heat from leaking

If any of these three pieces of the puzzle are missing, you are taking a risk that cost you a considerable amount of money to repair. This process will help your home to stay warm and you won’t be losing heat either. It is an overall winning outcome to save on your monthly heating costs and to prevent ice dams from causing damage.