Stopping an Actively Leaking Ice Dam

Posted by in Snow Loads, Winter Concerns | December 02, 2013

Have you ever had the problem or been called by someone who has the problem with a roof leak in the middle of the winter?  I would guess that many of you have.

At that moment the victim of a leaking roof does not want to hear how ice guard, better ventilation, a better roof configuration, or heating cables would have helped to prevent the problem.   How does one stop the leakage?

I have found that most times removing the snow from the roof surface and exposing the underlying snow melt to sub-freezing temperatures causes the snow melt to re-freeze and subsequently stops the leakage pretty quickly. This method also reduces the amount of snow available for later melting and roof leakage.

I usually remove the snow by getting up on a ladder and cautiously pulling the snow off the roof with a snow shovel or by using a snow rake with a long handle from the ground.  I recommend the second method over the first for safety reasons.

When I rake or shovel the roof surface I try not to make contact with the surface of the shingles too often to avoid damaging them.  Rarely do I chip away ice: I’ve found that chipping ice can damage the shingle surface with gouges or by inadvertently removing flakes of granules.

On occasion I have excavated ice from the dam and the gutter to create scuppers (breaks in the ice dams) to allow future snow melt to drain from the roof.  I’ve only done this a few times as it is not easy work and most times it has not necessary.

After doing all this work I pray that it doesn’t leak again until the cause has been addressed in better weather.

My thanks to those who have called me about their leaky roofs and unknowingly allowed me to learn from experience.