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Frozen Pipes & Ice Dams

Ice Dams Ahead

Protect your property and stay safe in the cruel winter weather – follow these safety steps.

The recent winter weather has created difficult travel conditions and the impact of ice, snow and freezing temperatures may lead to power outages and potential property damage—specifically from frozen pipes and ice dams.

Freezing temperatures can be especially damaging to water piping. A few simple steps can do a lot to prevent destructive pipe freezes:

  • Open the doors on cabinets where plumbing is located. This can help allow warmer air to circulate around the pipes.
  • For pipes that are at risk of freezing (both hot and cold water pipes), let water drip from faucets.
  • Keep the heat in your home set at a minimum of 55 degrees.
  • Insulate pipes in unheated interior areas, such as crawl spaces and attics. Wrap pipes in heat tape.

If pipes are suspected to be frozen:

  • Learn how to shut off your water, you may be able to prevent water damage
  • Locate your main water supply ahead of time and mark it in case of emergency
  • Contact a plumber for assistance

What is an ice dam? Ice dams can form when water from melting snow re-freezes at the edge of your roofline. Without roof snow removal, the ice dam may grow large enough to prevent water from draining off the roof. The water can then back up underneath the roof shingles and make its way inside your home. An ice dam has the potential to cause serious damage to both your roof and the inside of your home. It is important to take the right steps to protect your home from the risks associated with heavy snow and ice.

Immediate steps you can take:

  • Clear downspouts. An easy way to help snow and ice drain off your roof is to make sure the area around your downspouts is clear. This will make it possible for your gutters to drain when snow does melt. It will also help prevent flooding when the snow and ice melts.
  • Remove snow from your roof after every storm. Use a roof rake to clear the first three to four feet of snow from your roof immediately after each winter storm to prevent ice dams from forming. While the amount of snow and ice that your roof can handle may vary depending on a number of factors such as the roof type, age and condition of the structure, a good rule of thumb is if there is more than a foot of heavy, wet snow and ice on your roof, you should try to have it removed. If you cannot reach the roof, many homebuilders, landscapers, roofing contractors, and property maintenance companies will remove snow and ice from roofs. We do not recommend using a ladder in snowy and icy conditions. This can be extremely dangerous and is best left to the professionals.

Removing Ice Dams. If you can reach the roof safely, try to knock the ice dam off with a roof rake, or cut a channel through the ice to allow standing water to drain.

  • If you cannot reach the roof safely, consider hiring a contractor to remove it.
  • Another method is to fill a nylon stocking with calcium chloride ice melt and place it vertically across the ice dam so that it melts a channel through the dam. If you try this method, make sure you can safely position the ice melt on your roof, and make sure to use calcium chloride, not rock salt. Rock salt will damage your roof. Also be aware that shrubbery and plantings near the gutter or downspout may be damaged.
  • Look carefully at large icicles. If the icicles are confined to the gutters and there is no water trapped behind them, this does not indicate the presence of an ice dam. However, large icicles can pose a danger to people when they fall off. Try to safely knock the icicles off from the ground, making sure not to stand directly beneath them. If you cannot reach them safely from the ground, consider hiring a contractor to help.

Longer-term prevention: Ultimately, the best prevention for ice dams is to eliminate the conditions that make it possible for them to form in the first place.

  • Insulate your attic. Make sure your attic is well insulated to help prevent the melting-and-freezing cycle that causes ice dams to form. Check and seal places where warm air could leak from your house to the attic, including vent pipes, exhaust fans, chimneys, attic hatches and light fixtures.
  • Install a water-repellant membrane. When replacing a roof, make sure to install a water membrane underneath the shingles. This acts as an extra barrier that helps prevent water from seeping inside the building.

We’re here to help make sure you’re covered for all of life’s mishaps.

Scott Harrigan

About Scott Harrigan

Scott started his career in insurance in 1988 and joined Rue Insurance in 2004 as a Marketing Specialist focusing on creating effective risk financing and risk transfer programs for companies and non-profit organizations. In addition to this he is a member of the Rue Insurance educational team that provides ongoing professional development in critical insurance concepts and programs to Rue employees. About Scott | More Posts by Scott