Ice dams lead to leaky roofs

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — Many homes are experiencing leaks due to ice dams on roofs.

The problem happens when ice builds up on roofs, becoming thicker with every thaw and freeze cycle.

“Ice is strong enough to lift anything and break anything,” roofer Tim Sundberg said. “It’s lifting shingles up and it’s getting underneath and dropping water down behind the shingles and into your roof and into your house.”

Large icicles are one symptom of the problem. Another is leaky roofs.

Icicles at Ramblewood Apartments -- a symptom of an ice dam. (Feb. 11, 2014)

Icicles at Ramblewood Apartments — a symptom of an ice dam. (Feb. 11, 2014)

Benjamin Wisenbaugh and his neighbors at the Ramblewood Apartments in Wyoming have been dealing with the effects of ice dams on their roof  for almost two weeks.

“There’s  probably a gallon or two of water just sitting up there,” Wisenbaugh said. “It’s terrible.”

He said he’s worried his ceiling could collapse.

“I don’t know when this is going to fall down,” Wisenbaugh said. “It’s starting to crack right here because of the weight. And I can push my finger right through it.”

Damage at Ramblewood Apartments in Wyoming caused by a roof leak due to ice dams. (Feb. 11, 2014)

Damage at Ramblewood Apartments in Wyoming caused by a roof leak due to ice dams. (Feb. 11, 2014)

The Ramblewood residents aren’t alone. In Grand Rapids, Janice Anderson’s family room was covered in plastic to prevent water damage.

“It started off in the light fixture,” Anderson said. “You could tell it was so wet and it was drooping down and sagging.”

She has been emptying buckets of water a couple times a day.

Sundberg worked on the Andersons’ roof. He says he is  getting two to three calls each day every day about ice dam leaks. Other roofers are just as busy.

“This year this has been the worst year we’ve had for ice dams,” Sundberg said.

The solution is to use a hammer and chisel to clear channels for the water to run off, then fill the space with calcium chloride to keep it clear.

“Just keeping the water draining away,” Sundberg said.

Getting on the roof  to create the channel yourself can be dangerous. Sundberg said that if you do decide to do it yourself, make sure to tie yourself off with a rope and get someone to hold you.

You should create the channels every five to six feet, depending on how much water is behind the dam. If there is more, you could do it every three to four feet.

Be careful not to remove shingles when chiseling ice — it’s best to use a round hammer near the edge to prevent that.

A good way to prevent  ice dams before the snow  is by  putting heat tape on your roof.

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