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Ice Dams in Livonia, Alpena & Traverse City, Michigan

Learn how ice dams form around your Michigan home and how you can prevent them from causing damage.

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While icicles on the underside of your roof may be beautiful to look at, most homeowners may not realize that they can be a symptom of ice dams. Common in more frigid climates, ice dams can be extremely detrimental to the health of your roof and gutters.  

At FSM, we can inspect your home for ice dams and provide prevention solutions so you, your roof and gutters are prepared for winter. First, let’s figure out exactly how ice dams form and how you can spot them. 

Do These Ice Dams Look Familiar? 

Sometimes it’s hard to spot an ice dam versus snowfall pileup on your eaves and roof. They are typically large, frozen blocks that hang precariously over the ledge of your roof, or eave.

Take a look at these examples below. A telltale sign is usually icicles forming around a large mass of ice buildup off your gutter and eave. Does this look like your home?

How Do Ice Dams Form? 

 Ice dams are a large mass of ice that form on your home’s gutters and eaves. The eave is the edge of the roof that overhangs atop the perimeter of your home. As your roof warms from the temperature in the interior of your home, it will melt the snow on top. As the melting snow trickles down from your warm roof to your home’s frigid, detached eave and gutter, it freezes and creates an ice block. The ice block effectively turns into a dam as water continues to melt, and the melted water remains trapped behind the dam.

As it traps water back up on your roof and between your shingles, ice dams can cause major damage to both the inside and outside of your home; namely, interior leaking, pooling around your foundation, damage to your roof’s shingles, and more. 

How Can Ice Dams Damage Your Home? 

Leaks In The Interior Of Your Home  

As water is trapped on top of your roof in the ice dam, it will slowly begin to trickle into your attic and in between your shingles. This can completely ruin the R-value of insulation in your attic, both by wetting it and by causing mold. R value, in short, measures how well your insulation can lock heat inside of your home. When your insulation loses that valuable quality, it’s  

Replacing attic insulation can take $1,500 to replace on average. You may also notice water dripping from overhead; if the ice dam isn’t caught in time, the leak could persist to the interior ceiling of your home, and your living space. 

Water can also leak and trickle down the side of your home and pool around your foundation. Worst case scenario, you may deal with basement leakage, mold, and mildew

Damage Gutters 

As ice melts and refreezes, the buildup of the ice dam can weigh down your gutters causing gutter separation and leaking. Worst case scenario, that portion of your gutter can collapse and fall if it becomes heavy enough. 

Quick Tips For Ice Dam Prevention 

  • Heat Cables

Heated cables are insulated hot wires that heat up targeted areas of the exterior part of your roof. This allows the temperature of your entire roof and eave to stay regulated to discourage ice from forming. 

We don’t recommend taking on heat cables as a DIY project. Since some are electric, it’s vital to have a professional safely install this prevention method for you. 

  • Venting Your Ridge and Eaves

You can prevent ice dams by adding consistent ventilation to the edge of your roof. This allows cold air to evenly distribute and will prevent uneven snowmelt which leads to ice dams.

  • Completely Seal Entryways To Your Attic 

By sealing off any passage of warm air leaks to your roof, you not only save energy costs from stopping heat loss but will prevent snow from melting too quickly and collecting in the dam.

  • Ensure Exhaust Is Not Escaping Through Your Soffit

Exhaust ducts should only be provided with an escape route through your ceiling or wall, but never the soffit. If you sense an ice dam, ensure these ducts are not leaking or trailing out to the wrong area of the home.

  • Insulate Your Attic

Finally, sealing your attic from the inside involves more than just making sure the interior entryways are closed. Adding extra insulation to your attic floor and ceiling not only ensures that excess warmth doesn’t enter your attic; it also helps prevent it from getting out and affecting your roof or creating ice dams.

  • Make Sure Your Gutters Are Clean Before A Snow

As any snow or ice begins to melt either from the ice dam itself or from your roof, you’ll want to make sure it can have an easy passage to a safe drainage spot. If your gutters are clogged with debris like leaves, sticks, abandoned nests, or anything else, you risk amplifying the damage that a potential ice dam can have on your home.


  • Roof Rake 
    Ice dam removal can be well prevented and rid of by using a roof rake. Roof rakes are exactly what they sound like; they’re aluminum tools with a long handle that will reach up to your roof and scrape off excess snow.  

    When using a roof rake, it’s wise to start on the lower area of your roof first, then build up to the higher areas of your roof where there’s more snow. This makes it easier and safer to rake down the snow in small bits rather than in large masses. This will also prevent ice dams on other parts of your roof.  
  • Applying calcium chloride to the snow 
    An easy trick to removing ice dams will require an interesting combination of household products: panty hose and calcium chloride. Fill a stocking with an ice-melting calcium chloride mixture and place it on top of the ice dam. This will speed up the melting process and provide a pathway for the water to safely drain away from your roof.  

Ice damming is very common in extremely cold northern climates, like Alpena, Traverse City, Detroit, and other Michigan cities. The daytime sets into motion the melt cycle, then at night the dam refreezes, only to worsen over time as the day-night cycle continues in the cold weather. 

Shingle roofs are more vulnerable to ice dams forming during the winter. The layers and texture that make up the roof make it easier for ice dams to form, as the water has something to latch onto. 

Shingles are also easier for ice dams, and ice in general, to damage after a long period of time without maintenance. Water is trapped in between the shingles, and as it freezes, melts, then refreezes, expanding in between the shingles, causing displacement.

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    Keep Your Gutters Functioning With FSM

    Your gutters are a vital part of your home’s ecosystem, and we’re here to help you keep them healthy. We know that approaching repairs can seem very daunting, so we’re proud to offer free inspections for homeowners who just want peace of mind.

    One of our certified field inspectors will survey your entire home to find the true source of your drainage and gutter issues. We take pride in not forcing unneeded repairs on you. All of our quotes are free with absolutely no obligation to book with us. Schedule your free inspection, today!

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