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When Are Ice Dams at Their Most Dangerous?

Ice dams can be pretty dangerous – and I’m not just talking about the damage they can cause by leaking into your home.

Sometimes ice dams can actually hurt people and property.  Chunks of ice can fall off your roof and onto you.  This ice is heavy, and it can break bones or worse.  We’re certainly not fear mongering here, falling is a very real danger.

Although I hope you’ll call a company like Ice Dam Guys® long before there’s so much ice you’re concerned that it will break off your roof and bonk you, I’d like to give you some warning signs that your ice dam might be more than a potential leak hazard:

Is there thick ice on the overhang?

Can you look on your roof and see a thick line of ice on your overhang?  Don’t ignore it!  We drive by homes all the time and see countless homeowners who just ignore 10- and 15-inch blocks of ice.  They don’t realize that this is literally several tons of ice on the roof.

All that ice can easily weigh as much as an SUV.  Imagine the strain on your roof, and imagine what happens if there’s a fault line in the ice.  If the day warms up and some of that ice melts it may well come crashing down onto someone or something.  You’ve probably seen icicles spontaneously break off.  Larger chunks of ice can do the same.

Of course there’s always the very real chance that this amount of ice could cause a complete roof failure.  It seems to happen every year in areas of the region that get especially pounded with heavy snow and/or are plagued with ripe conditions for the formation of ice dams.

Is the ice bending towards the house under the overhang, or is it hanging under the overhang?

This is a sure sign that the ice is not well-anchored, and that it’s dangerous.  Now you’re not just looking at a piece of ice that might break away: You’re looking at a piece of ice that will almost certainly break away at some point.  It’s only a matter of time.  You need to call an ice removal pro to get rid of it safely as soon as you can.

Are your gutters stuffed with ice?

If your gutters are bending from the sheer weight of the ice stuffed inside of them, it’s time to call an ice dam removal pro.  Have you ever seen the screws that hold your gutters in place?  They’re so tiny a Lego man could have installed them.  Get your ice dams removed immediately before someone gets hurt or worse.  At the very least, you’ll be saving the expense of getting new gutters in the spring (and that’s assuming the gutters don’t take your fascia with them when they’re ripped from your roof).

Do you have a metal roof?

You don’t want to mess with ice dams or signs of significant icicles on a metal roof. Those can slide off at any moment.

Now, metal roofs don’t typically get ice dams, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t happen. And if you happen to see a metal roof with a bunch of icicles you’ll want to walk as far away from it as possible.  We see store owners with metal roofs who seem oblivious to these huge icicles all the time.  We’ve seen people escape a plummeting icicle by mere seconds.  (Fortunately, we’ve seen them slam into pavement and not into people, but the risk is there.)  YouTube it.

We can’t help but cringe at the liability issue for the store owner, too.  Remember, if you’re running a store then you’ve got a legal responsibility to maintain your place so it’s safe for people.  If you’re running a store, have a metal roof, have ice, and don’t want to get showered with litigation, then call a reputable ice dam pro to remove the snow and ice before it becomes a danger to the public.  We get called out to businesses every winter to remove the snow and ice from their roof, but it’s almost always only after someone has been injured.   Ice dam removal is a heck of lot cheaper than a lawsuit, not to mention a damaged reputation.

Any time you reach out to break off an icicle in a random fashion.

Yes, icicles are pretty and breaking them off is tempting, but I do not suggest breaking icicles off of any roof.  As I’ve said before, icicles are a sign that an ice dam could be looming above (or you will get them soon if the right weather persists).  It’s not the icicles that are the problem, so leave them alone and let them be pretty.

If you can’t resist reaching up to grab a big icicle, be warned: you could very well be inviting a big ice avalanche.  That’s especially true if you’re dealing with a slick metal roof, where snow and ice can slide off even faster, and with much less warning.

To sum up: big ice dams, ice dams under your overhang, stuffed gutters, metal roofs, and dumb horseplay are all factors that make ice dams especially dangerous.

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