Uh-oh...rooftop ice dam damage. Dammit!

so…this is a first. Never had really big icicles dripping from the gutter until this year. And then the dripping was…yellowish. Brownish. And now - inside - there’s a little bit of water dripping from the ceiling, down the wall.

I am assuming water from ice and snow got under the roof shingles because I didn’t have the foresight to climb up a ladder onto the roof with a snow hoe and clean off the roof.

I am assuming I am fucked. Battening down the hatches here for another snowstorm, but when it’s all over in a couple of months - well, what then? Call the insurance company ? Call a roofer? Is the damage going to cost as much as the house is worth, or is it manageable? Will I need a whole new roof?

Because this NEVER happened to my house before. Just wondering if anyone wanted to share their ice-dam roof damage experiences.

They make long heat cables that you zig zag over the edge of the roof to melt trenches in the ice to drain the water. Measure your roof and get to the hardware store, be sure to buy enough length that you can make the zig zag pattern and get a extension cord if you need one.

sitchensis, possibly good advice, but for **salinqmind **it’s barn doors, horses already out, etc.

salinqmind, it’s almost impossible to answer your cost question without a lot more information, most of which is almost impossible to get without poking around your roof and ceiling and such. It could be a minor leak which you can fix internally and externally for a few hundred bucks. It could be a major leak that’s saturated large areas of the structure and traveled or pooled laterally, necessitating tearout/rebuild and moisture abatement costing several thousands.

I personally would find a good home inspector to do the assessment, either through referrals from friends or via Angie’s list. Such a person won’t expect to get the repair contract and so presumably wouldn’t be tempted to over-recommend repairs, plus a good one will have the necessary equipment and experience to assess the damage. You probably should read the fine print on your insurance contract before calling your insurer, but I’m going to guess that ice dam damage is the sort of thing most policies avoid covering. Depending on how old your roof and/or gutters are, any guarantees that came with them might be applicable. I’d check any homebuyer’s warranty you might have, too.

Get a ladder and a hatchet and cut some channels in the ice to drain the roof not next month now. You will need them every couple of feet.

I had this happen to us once and by getting right on it we kept the damage to a paint job.

the color in the icicles is from the roofing material that has dissolved out.

depending on how much water got in you might need to ventilate the walls and attic and replace insulation.

you don’t know the damage until it melts and you can get on the roof and lift the roofing material and look at the deck. also you need to inspect attic and walls.

use a roof rake and clean the roof of snow whenever it is up there.

get on ladder and chip vertical channels in ice on the edge to let drain.

No, it isn’t.

Yes, he has had some roof damage. But there are months of winter left, and he could have quite a bit more. Or he could follow the advice given here, and fix these ice dams, and prevent additional roof damage. That would be wiser.

A better simile would be to say that the barn door is open, and some of the horses are out – now do you want to close the door, and prevent additional horses from leaving, or not?

I had some pretty impressive ice dams on my roof this year. I would normally take one of my ice carving tools up and cut channels, but a recent knee replacement has left me temorarily less cooridinated. I put road salt in some old hosery and tights that I pinched from my wife and daughter. Placed them on the ice dams. It melted them pretty quickly.

I would normally worry about it killing plants, but my house is ivy covered, and that stuff is damn near indestructable. My lack of range of motion had me more worried that I’d wind up on my ass in the middle of my arborvitea.

All this is good advice, but what if you live in a house with a very tall roof, as in “there’s no way to reach it unless you’re a bird or own a 12-ft ladder?”

I’ve got the mother of all icicles hanging off both back corners of my house. I’m 5’3", and I swear one of them is probably my height, maybe taller. Even from the deck one cannot reach up to whack it.

The only ladder I own goes up to maybe 4-5 ft. at the most. We’re not handypeople by a long shot. I’m praying they’ll melt on their own, but given this winter, that probably won’t happen until June :disgruntled sigh:

a roof rake, for raking snow, with handle extensions (6 feet each) can reach 30 feet.

I would use caution using salt on the roof, because the salt water may leak inside the house.

Besides cutting channels you could use a electric heating pad to melt them (take the cover off weight it down and plug into a GFC outlet). This will take some time and many repositions, but may be easier on the roof.

I’ve heard some recommendations not to cut channels as you may do more damage to the roof then just letting the water through.

Around here, you can hire people to shovel your roof, if it’s too tall for you. But then again, I live in an area where lots of snow is pretty much normal.

As to the OP, yeah, ice dams need to be taken care of, but the degree of damage varies. We’ve had bad winters where we get a few drips inside, but the roofers/insulators can’t find anything wrong and write it off to a freak ice dam and bad weather. Other occasions, we’ve spent several thousand in re-insulating areas of the house. Hard to tell if it’s serious or not until you get up there and take a look.

Use 1" diameter plastic plumbing pipe to remove the snow and icicles from the roof edge. Buy removing the snow from the edge before it turns to ice you prevent an ice dam. You can buy two sections of pipe and use a connector to join them and then disconnect to store them. Two sections of this pipe are light enough most people can handle them.

Really? I’ve never heard of anything like that.

…but then again I don’t know of anybody who shovels snow off their roof. I’ve never seen anyone in my neighborhood doing it.

We had ice dams going up nearly 10 feet on our back roof in Anchorage some years ago. Inadequate insulation in the attic was the culprit. In the spring, we had insulation blown in and eave vents installed, which cured the problem. The only plus was that I got a new shop vac out of the deal to clean up the water. Luckily the carpet was not wool, so it dried back to its original color. We had to call in a roof guy to break up and remove the ice so that it wouldn’t happen again. Apparently, when the roofs were replaced in that condo unit, ice shield was only installed for about a foot and a half, so that was part of the problem, but the lack of adequate insulation and venting was the major issue.

No advice here, just empathy.

This happened to us (in the Philadelphia area) a few years back. We had a significant snowfall followed by three or four days of 28-30 degree highs. Because of the heat escaping from the house the snow melted off of the top of the roof, the melt reached the unheated eaves/gutters, and the melt froze into ice dams. Since we’d never run into this phenomenon before, we cheerfully ignored it - until water started dripping down the inside of the wall.

In our case damage had occurred to the underside of the roof (we waited until spring to take care of it) to the point that we had to have that roof section repaired/replaced for what at the time seemed to be a fair amount of money. (We’ve since had to deal with other house repairs that have been far more expensive, if that makes anyone feel any better. :wink: )

I believe that the fellow who repaired/replaced the roof told us that this damage was not all new and that the situation had been developing for some time. The ice dam just exposed the issue, as it were.

I think emmaliminal was pointing out that sitchensis’s specific advice - installation of heating cables - will do nothing to get rid of the ice dams the OP already has. The wires are meant to be installed directly on the shingles, on a clean & dry roof, and should be plugged in while snow is falling or during melting periods to keep drainage channels clear. Once you’ve already got ice dams, you can’t install those heating cables.

Thanks for the replies. There are businesses that will come and rake the snow off your roof. I can’t do it myself. I think I saw on the morning news, briefly, a glimpse of a video interview with some guy who was holding what looked like salt or de-icer formed into cubes. The idea being to pitch them up on the roof. (I do have tights and such that I guess I could fill with rock salt as suggested above.)

What a pain. Misery after misery this year.

Roof Melt. That’s what it’s called.

I just want to point out that you can indeed use the heating cables after the fact.

Yes the heating cables come with clips to hold them to your shingles and those clips can only be used when the roof is not covered in ice, but in this situation just press the cable down into the snow and plug it in. The heat will cut trenches into the ice and gravity will carry the cable down to the roof.

By not using the clips the cable might fall off your roof in the spring, or it might look a little ugly compared to the pictures on the box, but for now it will do its job and if it can turn a two thousand dollar repair into a two hundred dollar repair it will be worth it.

Just wanted to post a link for the heat cables

I’m telling ya, saved me from major flooding on two occasions