OTTAWA -- In a year that feels like 300 years, with everyone working and learning from home, a leaky roof might just be the thing that has you yelling: DAM, OR ICE-DAM!!

Shoveling your roof does sound like as much fun as cleaning out the crisper in the fridge, or organizing receipts for your taxes.  

Steve Barkhouse of Amsted Design Build says it’s one of those home maintenance jobs that can save you leaks and headaches down the road.

He swears by his roof rake, an extendable tool, which saves you from climbing onto the roof to clear the snow above the eavestrough and preventing ice damming.

Ice damning

Barkhouse recently demonstrated the process on CTV’s News at Noon. 

Here he offers an explanation of ice damming, which may have you working outside on this Valentine’s Day weekend.

What is ice damming and how do I prevent it from damaging my home? 

"Ice damming is something we get questions on year after year. Heavy snowfalls, particularly coupled with fluctuating temperatures, can cause serious problems for your roof," says Barkhouse. "Left untreated, ice dams can damage your roof, gutters, paint, insulation, drywall, structure and even contribute to mold!”

  • Thick snow on your roof traps warm air in the attic that has risen up through the ceiling insulation. 
  • Eventually the attic temperature rises to the point where the layer of snow in contact with the shingles begins to melt. 
  • Water runs down the roof until it reaches the area just beyond the home’s exterior wall, where the roof is much colder 

 Here, the water freezes. 

  • As the process continues a thick layer of ice is formed that finally ‘dams’ the water from flowing down the roof and it begins to pool and back up under the shingles. 
  • As the water is forced further up under the shingles it begins to penetrate the roof decking through nail holes and other small openings and drips down onto the ceiling insulation. 
  • In extreme cases there is enough water to penetrate the ceiling drywall and cause considerable damage. 

Ice damming

What can you do? 

  1. Make sure your gutters are clear. (This was hopefully done in the fall, as one of our previous tips for winter preparation. Check out our Home Maintenance guide on the Amsted website
  2. Visually check your roof to make sure that all of the roof vents, including plumbing stacks are open and not covered with snow. 
  3. Consistently remove snow from the lowest four feet of your roof along with any covered vents. You can do this yourself with a snow rake or melting pucks 
  4. If you already have ice-dams, you will need to call in a professional. Count on the cost for removal being less than the damage caused if left untreated. It’s worth it!