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Icicles, ice dams, and how to prevent damage to your home

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Icicles largeIce. It’s great for skating, fishing, and cooling a beverage, but icicles hanging along the eaves of your house may be a sign of trouble. When snow or ice is melted by sunlight or heat loss from your roof, the melted water then drips down a surface (your roof, gutters, downspouts, etc.) and forms an icicle.

Icicles and ice dams are a sign that you have insulation and/or ventilation issues in your home. Icicles that are larger around than a soda can are likely attached to an ice dam. Ice dams are a thick ridge of solid ice that builds up along the eaves of a roof when the upper part of your roof is warm enough to melt snow and the eaves are cold enough to freeze the runoff. Simply knocking down the icicles will not get rid of the problem. Ice dams can loosen shingles, rip off gutters, and allow water to infiltrate your home. If that happens, you’ll likely have damage to your walls, ceiling, floors, and attic insulation.  

How to prevent icicles and ice dams

  • Keep your attic cold. Properly insulate your attic floor and be sure your attic is adequately ventilated. Install roof vents, gable vents, and/or soffit vents to ensure a well-ventilated space. An added bonus—insulating can help lower energy bills.
  • Clear your gutters of leaves and debris so melting snow can drain out.
  • After a heavy winter storm, remove a layer of snow at least three feet above the gutter line with a long-handled aluminum roof rake while you stay safely on the ground. A rake with wheels will help prevent damage to your roof.
  • Do not chip at ice dams with a hammer, an ice pick, or shovel. It’s dangerous and can often do more harm than good.
  • Don’t use salt to melt the ice. This may damage your plantings and roofing material.

Water damage from ice dams is generally covered on your home insurance policy, but exclusions may apply. Be sure to read your policy carefully and contact your insurance company right away if you have damage. If you have your home policy with us, give us a call at 1-800-279-4010 to report any damage.

Property and casualty insurance programs are underwritten by WEA Property & Casualty Insurance Company. The terms and conditions of your coverage are exclusively controlled by your written policy. Please refer to your policy for details.