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Have you ever gone outside after a patch of cold weather to find long icicles hanging from your roof's edge? These spears of ice are usually caused by an ice dam forming along your eaves or roof's edge and can be dangerous when they melt and go flying to the ground.
What is an ice dam?
An ice dam is a rim of ice that accumulates when snow melts on your roof and cools enough to turn to ice before it falls to the ground. The result is a heavy buildup of ice that can tear down your gutters and drain pipes as well as cause those huge (and dangerous) icicles. It can even cause water to back up and enter your home. Ice dams are usually the result of heat escaping from the top of your house due to poor insulation. Chimneys and exhaust vents on your roof can also contribute to causing ice dams.
Dealing with ice dams
To keep ice dams in check, it's important to keep the snow from building up on your roof. You can do this with a roof rake or a roof broom without having to climb up on the icy roof. For a long-term fix, it's also a good idea to inspect your roof's edge and the inside of your attic each fall and seal up any cracks or gaps where heated air can escape. In addition, you want to keep as much heated air in your living space as possible for energy efficiency as well as preventing ice dams. That means making sure that your ceiling is secure and insulated and that no air is passing between the two spaces.
If, despite your best efforts, you still have ice dams appearing at your roof's edge, it's best to call in the professionals. Walking around on an icy roof can be hazardous and is better left to those with special training and experience.