12 Roof Ice Melt Systems Debunked

By Juno Construction

Ice Dams are very dangerous to the overall health of your home. They can cause serious damage to internal and external home components if left unattended.

However, it’s hard to know what the best ice dam removal strategies are with copious amounts of misinformation available on the internet and among ice dam removal professionals. Here are the methods and how they may affect the health of your roof.

 

Listed below are Roof Ice Melt Systems you should avoid and why:

1) Steam

If the professional you are planning to hire intends to use steam to eliminate your ice dams, do NOT hire them. Water is your home’s enemy, so adding more water to a roof with existing water issues is just not a good plan. It can leave your roof susceptible to leaks, but it can also create a massive drainage issue.

 

 

Steaming the ice off your roof will cause massive amounts of water to pool around your foundation. Temperature increases will allow water to seep into the ground where it can freeze once it gets cold enough. This frozen water next to your home’s foundation can put a lot of hydrostatic pressure on the block leading to cracking, shifting, crumbling, or wet basements. And, when it is all said and done, this is still only a temporary fix.

 

 

2) High-Temp Pressure Washing

Pressure washing your roof will definitely remove existing ice dams, but it can do severe damage to the roof materials. This kind of tool is designed to clean with impact force and can be highly abrasive to roof components. It can cut and chisel away small parts of the shingles and ultimately lead to premature shingle deterioration, and further moisture intrusion. It also makes a massive water drainage mess similar to steam.

 

 

3) Salt

Salt seems to be a “go-to” DIY for ice dam removal. Many people will throw salt pucks or salt-filled pantyhose near the ice dams. It is typically a desperate attempt to stop an ongoing roof leak. The thought process is that the salt with melt a path through the ice dam which will allow water to move through the dam and into the gutter (instead of into your home). This would be great, except that most times, the salt won’t melt the ice quickly enough to prevent a leak from reoccurring.

 

 

And, the next time your roof leaks, it will no longer be with fresh water. Uh oh. You have literally opened the door for dangerous salt water to enter your home. Salt water can be highly corrosive to wiring, appliances, and electronics. It leaves awful stains on drywall and discolors furniture, woodwork, and carpet. On top of this, external components of your home can be damaged.

These issues may include discolored shingles, rusty or corroded flashing, nails, and gutters, tarnished driveways & walkways, and dead grass & shrubbery. The best thing to do here is just to avoid using salt at all. Besides, who wants to see your old pantyhose on the rooftop?

 

 

4) Heat Cables

Many homeowners install heat cables with the idea that they will prevent or completely eliminate their ice dams. This is not true. Like salt-filled pantyhose, they are meant to melt channels through formed ice dams to create pathways for water to escape into gutters. The theory is good, but the mechanism doesn’t always work. You may still experience water leaks if the cables are unable to melt ice quickly enough.

They can also be dangerous to install, increase electricity bills, and must be monitored to prevent overheating. Proceed with caution if you are currently using these.

 

 

5) Add Insulation

This ice-melt tactic is starting to get closer to addressing the core issue of ice dam prevention but is still not an end-all solution. Insulation acts as a heat barrier, keeping warm air within the home during winter months. If warm air is allowed to leave the house and move into the attic, it can warm the roof deck and begin the ice dam formation process.

 

Image from Energy Savers of Florida

 

Insulation is an essential factor for preventing heat loss, but it is only one part within a more extensive system. Attic ventilation and bypasses also need to be addressed to avoid heat loss in the winter and ultimately prevent ice dams. Do not go buy a bunch of insulation to add to your attic without first speaking to a professional. There is a chance your insulation is fine, and you just need to seal open bypasses in the attic. Meet with a professional and determine the best course of action before wasting time and money.

 

 

6) Tools: Axe and Ice Pick

These tools are “oh-so-tempting” when thinking about removing ice dams. How satisfying would it be to chop away at the ice devils causing huge leaks in your home? There is no doubt that they will get the job done, and, in only a matter of minutes. But, you absolutely must not consider taking an ax or ice pick to your roof! That is the quickest way to ruin your roof. It is also a quick way to get yourself hurt.

 

 

 

7) Blow Torch

I cannot give enough warnings. DO NOT DO THIS. A blow torch will most definitely damage your roof. Did I mention that it won’t get rid of your ice dams? There are literally no pros.

 

 

8) Install Ice Belt Metal Panels

We know that ice dams are harmful because they can cause leaks when trapped water moves down the roofline and freezes at the eaves eventually working its way under shingles. So, why not eliminate a way for water to get into your roof? This can be done through a continuous metal roofing system. But to install an entire metal roofing system because of ice dams would be expensive and silly when the attic is the real culprit for the issues.

 

 

So, some people justify adding ice belt metal panels along their roof eaves. The purpose of these ice belt metal panels is to shed snow off the roof eaves and prevent leaks from occurring. Sometimes these panels can actually make the issue worse. If an ice dam were to form on top of the panel, water would be funneled underneath the metal into the home. Addressing the attic components should be the number one option. Adding metal panels will an expensive temporary fix.

 

Image from Build With Vision

 

9) Replace Chimney Flashing

It is common for ice dams to occur around chimneys and thus there is a high potential for leaks. Sometimes homeowners will look to install new chimney flashing to keep moisture out. It is always a good idea to have proper waterproofing on your roof. However, if continuous ice dams form in this area, it is only a matter of time before mother nature runs its course and water entry is permitted.

 

 

10) Replace Existing Shingles or Install more waterproofing membranes (Ice and Water shield)

The thought process behind this is good. But, we have to remember that water is not meant to stand on our roofs. It is intended to run off of the roof, into gutters, and be guided far away from the home’s foundation. As long as ice dams endure, water will build-up and infiltrate the house. Replacing shingles and installing new ice and water shield will not solve this.

 

 

11) Shoveling Snow off the Roof Eaves

Simply shoveling snow off the roof eaves won’t prevent ice dam formation. As long as there is heat loss in the attic (and a sun in the sky), snow will melt and freeze on the roof eaves. hoveling is a great temporary fix but is not one that will last forever. Out of all the methods listed here, if done correctly, this method is the safest for your roof. It is a good idea to have a respected professional shovel your roof to prevent damage from occurring.

 

 

12) Snow Rake

Like shoveling, snow rakes can be useful for temporarily holding off ice dams. Most of the heat loss in attics will occur near the eaves. So, it’s vitally important to rake all the snow 6 feet above the eaves. The less water available to freeze on the eave, the better. Be aware of icicles, powerlines, fast-moving snow, and any loose roofing materials such as flashings that could come loose if accidentally hooked with the rake.

 

 

Click to learn more about the safest and best ice dam removal and prevention methods.

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