Welcome to Richard Roofing- Ice Backup FAQ's

Richard Roofing
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Ice Backup FAQS

What causes ice buildup on the edges of my roof?
Typically, snow is melted by heat escaping through the roof. The water refreezes at the overhang at the bottom of the roof because it is colder than the rest of the roof.
What weather conditions create ice buildup?
First of all, there must be snow on the roof. Secondly, the outside temperature must be below freezing. The longer snow is on the roof and the longer the temperature remains below freezing, the more likely it is that ice buildup and leakage will occur.
Why does my roof leak?
Shingle roofs are designed to shed water, not hold water. Whenever water flow off the roof is obstructed, water will flow under the shingles and over flashings (the joints where the roof meets vertical walls) to create leaks.
Why do some roofs have problems and others don’t?
Heat loss through the roof is the biggest variable. Some houses have extremely effective insulation and ventilation. Other houses, due to their design, are more difficult to insulate and ventilate. The complexity of the roof geometry is another variable. Unheated unattached garages typically never have ice backup problems because there is no heat escaping to melt the snow and the roof geometry is usually pretty simple.
If I have ice backup leaks, was my roof improperly installed?
No! The leaks are caused by water trapped by ice, not by improper installation. Shingles are simply designed to shed water, not stop trapped water from entering your home.
I installed ice backup protection under my shingles. Why does my roof still leak?
There are many reasons. Ice backup protection is typically installed from the roof edge extending 3 to 6 feet up from the edge. It is possible in some cases that water could be trapped above the protection. In addition, the roof flashings, where vertical walls meet the roof, extend only a few inches above the roof. Trapped water can be forced to enter the house through and above these flashings. Also, trapped water can enter the house through the woodwork below the roof edge. Ice backup protection can reduce the possibility of leaks but cannot eliminate leaks.
What can I do to stop the leaks?
Call a roofing professional to free the trapped water. This can be very dangerous work. If you cannot find a professional to do the work, here are some suggestions if you want to try to do it yourself:
  • You do not need to remove all the ice.
  • You do need to cut channels in the ice to allow trapped water to flow off the roof.
  • Channels can be cut every 3 to 6 feet on a long eave or, with localized leaking, cut channels in the area near the leak or ice buildup.
  • When cutting channels in the ice, make sure not to damage the shingles underneath. Do not use an axe or hatchet because they increase the possibility of cutting through your shingles. Our crews typically use the claw end of a hammer to start cutting the channel until they get close to the shingles. Then they use the head of the hammer to remove the remaining ice at the bottom of the channel.
  • Install ice melt compound above the ice dam and in the channels you have cut. We suggest potassium chloride because it is not as likely to damage shrubbery. Do not use rock salt since it is more likely to damage your live landscaping. We can sell you potassium chloride if you cannot locate it elsewhere.
  • You do not need to unfreeze your gutters. Let the water flow over the top of your frozen gutters.
  • BE CAREFUL! You don’t want to add a hospital stay to your leaking problems.
Can your work cause additional damage?
It is possible. We need to erect ladders at the location of the problem. Some shrubbery/landscaping may be unavoidably damaged. We also have to mechanically cut channels in the ice to allow water to flow. We are very careful but it is possible to damage shingles, especially on older roofs, during the process. Also, gutters can be damaged by excessive ice which is also beyond our control. Any damage occurring due to ice backup remediation would be repaired at additional cost during warmer weather.
Are channels in the ice a permanent solution?
No! Weather conditions can cause the channels to refreeze. More snow can fall; the weather can remain below freezing. You may need to have the channels recut several days later if leaks reoccur.
Why don’t my gutters stop the problem?
Pure and simply, gutters do not work in the winter. As soon as the gutters or the downspouts freeze, gutters stop working
Do gutters make ice backup worse?
Yes! That is possible. Frozen gutters provide another obstacle to make it harder for water to get off the roof. This is a “catch 22”. Gutters may cause a slight increase in the potential for backup problems, but not having gutters can cause serious basement water problems in the summer. Our recommendation is to keep your gutters. Just make sure they are installed securely enough to take the ice load.
Is the cost to stop the leaks and repair the damage covered by insurance?
This is a question for your homeowners insurance company. Typically, this expense is covered but you need to contact your insurance carrier for the details.
What are more permanent solutions to reduce ice backup leaks?
  • Make sure you have adequate attic insulation and ventilation.
  • Install ice backup protection under your shingles when you have a new roof installed.
  • For stubborn cases, install electric deicer cables.