This time of year, the northeast of the United States starts to feel insufferably cold, followed up by winter storms which can dump anywhere from an inch to three feet of snow at a time. The snow can be a welcomed arrival in winter as it brings snow days, sleigh riding and joy. It can also signal the beginning of a damming experience; ice damming that is.

You see, ice damming is a term for when snow on your roof starts to melt from either heat building up in your attic, the ambient temperature, or the sun. As the snow melts it slides down your roof and towards your gutters. However, the buildup of snow on the roof and in the gutter prevents the water from properly draining. Then as the sun fades and the temperatures drop again, all that water stuck around your gutters freezes, creating an ice dam. Now while an ice dam may look nice with its icicles hanging there glistening in the sun, it is causing a disaster to your roofing system.

As the ice dam phenomenon sits atop your roof, it can lead to roof leaks, ceiling collapses, and frozen and/or burst pipes. However, most notably, it leads to significant damage to your roofing shingles and gutters. As the water and snow melt and refreeze repeatedly, it expands and contracts the roofing shingles and moves your gutters off their original position. This can cause heavy and extensive damage to your home.

So, what do you do when you see ice damming on your roof? Well besides saying “ice dammit” there isn’t much you can do. Trying to chip the ice away will cause your shingles to break or become damaged. If you are lucky, it will get warm enough to melt the ice and snow and drain over and eventually out of your gutters. However, if you are unlucky, you simply must sit there and wait until spring.

If you notice damage either to your roofing system or interior of your home, make sure you contact your insurance agency. If you need further assistance, it is always a good idea to contact a licensed public adjuster to help navigate the insurance claims process.