Knee High Up on the Roof

About a year after we bought this house, we learned a new winter term. What is this winter vocabulary item that will now haunt our winter lives? The word is ice dam.

We learned about ice dams the hard way. One late winter morning, I woke up and heard dripping. I slowly turned on the light and saw water coming in our bedroom. Yes, we had a leak there and on the other side of the wall, in our bathroom. We had no clue what was going on. We called a handyman that we knew and he came over. When he went on the roof he immediately saw we had a few giant ice dams that were allowing the rain to flow back into the house via the roof shingles.

Ice dams are something to be feared as a home owner in the northeast. If you drive around and see pretty icicles hanging off of homes, it typically means there is more going on up over the roof. Our fear of water coming into the house from ice dams means that TechyDad is constantly outside raking our roof and working on the ice.

The windows in our upstairs room allow us to get a first hand look at the lower section of our roof on the one side. Checking the ice dams has been very depressing this year. Saturday morning, we were scared of the weather report. It said a lot of rain and ice was coming our way. We went out and bought supplies to target the ice dams after others had suggested this technique. We wanted to make channels for the water to flow off of the roof and not back into the house.

When we came home from Home Depot with the 50 pound bag of calcium chloride, I went and found an old box of knee highs. TechyDad and I filled four of them to begin the experiment. After about an hour, we could see that they were doing something, so we went and filled six more knee highs to tackle the  ice dams before the rain. We noticed an area of water pooling in one section and worked there. Sure enough, these nifty knee highs did the trick. The opened up an area for the water to flow off the roof.

Knee High Up On The Roof

So far so good. Of course, next year we plan on installing some heating coils on the lower roof section and other problem areas to try to prevent ice dams from forming. And if you are wondering, I will never be able to look at knee highs the same again!


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  • Cathi says:

    Oh my gosh!! You just helped me to decide…never mover to the snow!! Pretty to look at…not to live in.
    Looks like a bunch of legs on your roof. I’ll think of this everytime I see a pair of knee highs!

  • Jen says:

    I have never heard of doing it this way, but it’s pretty ingenious!

    Do you have attic access? The best solution is really to go into the attic and install baffles at the soffits. Then cut better soffit vents in. This will allow better airflow in the attic. It’ll keep the attic cold, keeping the heat in the house and reducing the melt/re-freeze cycle that causes ice dams. You still have to rake the roof, but the ice dams will decrease dramatically.

    We did this a few years ago after we had a leak and it’s made a huge difference. My in-laws had a leak friday so I imagine we’ll be doing their attic this summer.
    Jen´s last blog post ..Happy Birthday

  • TechyDad says:

    The area in question is just below an upper roof that I can only partially rake. That room’s ceiling insulation is poor and the snow up there melts, running down onto the roof below. There it refreezes forming vast mounds of ice. To completely fix this we would have to rip out all of the room’s ceiling tiles, re-insulate and install new ceiling tiles. Of course, this would be an expensive (not to mention messy) task so it probably won’t get done. Instead, I’ll be roof raking to remove as much snow as possible (before it melts/refeezes into ice) and we’ll install heating coils after the ice melts.

    There are other ice dam locations where baffles might help though. Thanks for that recommendation.

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