Good Question: Do Icicles Mean You Have Ice Dams?

By Jason DeRusha, WCCO-TV

— We have all seen the damage ice dams can do inside our homes. But almost all of us have icicles hanging from our gutters and roofs. So, when do icicles become ice dams and what’s the difference?

“If I have giant icicles hanging from my roof does that mean I have ice dams? What exactly *are* ice dams?” asked Molly Priesmeyer, via Twitter. Florence Nelson asked the same question: “Do icicles mean ice dams?”

So, should people be worried about icicles?

“Small icicles? No,” said Joe Palumbo, President of Palumbo Services, which operates The Ice Dam Removal Guys in the winter.

“But when they get to the point they’re large, about the diameter of a pop can, that’s when you know the inside attic temperature is warmer than the outside air,” he said. “They are a byproduct of ice dam. The melting snow, rolling over the dam and freezing. Those icicles can literally go all the way to the ground.”

When your attic isn’t fully-insulated, the heat inside warms the snow outside. The melting pools into a barrier of ice.

Small icicles attach to the roof and are simply pretty to look at. Large icicles are too heavy to just attach to the roof.

“The roof won’t hold it up, it’s rooted into a bigger problem, and that would be an ice dam,” he said.

Because the ice dam plugs up your gutters, often you’ll see water running down the side of the house.

“That means you have an ice dam,” said Palumbo.

Some try to deal with it by knocking down the icicles.

“It does nothing,” said Palumbo, because the icicle is simply a symptom of the ice dam. The dam remains, even if you knock down the icicle.

In a normal year, using a roof rake to clear the snow is a great way to prevent ice dams. But this year is different, according to Palumbo, because there’s so much snow and ice already on the roof.

If it rains this week, “we believe the snow is going to absorb the rain and turn the entire roof into ice. We’re predicting things to get really bad,” he said.

WCCO-TV’s Jason DeRusha Reports


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