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

  • Jeff

    Well thanks for this worthless article. Cool, I can know determine I have ice dams and if it rains it will be worse. Thank you so much for telling people how to deal with ice dams.

    • smacku427

      I agree, GREAT QUESTION. Idiot writer.

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  • olaf

    Here’s a thought–PREVENTION!! Like the article says–use a roof rake to remove the snow (before a build-up). Make sure your attic is properly insulated.

    • bikermo

      some of us can’t – like those of us in townhomes. i asked the association about preventative maintenance like this last winter and they told me it would cost too much to remove the snow from every roof, but that they’d pay for any repairs necessary. i think they mean the INSURANCE COMPANY would pay. which doesn’t really seem like the association’s serving the people who pay its salary very well now does it? at least they finally put gutters on the place which helped a little.

      • tinkbot

        Same with my association. They won’t rake everyone’s roof, but only a select few that have had ice dams or water damage in the past. They came to my unit and raked the lower part of the roof (upper roof is too high to rake) after the blizzard but I still ended up with a major ice dam AND water damage inside my house. Sigh.

  • matt

    SALT people SALT it works wonders just throw it on your ice dams and when it warms up to almost in the 40 degree area they will melt quickly…..don’t pay $300 an hr for a great scam on there part to get rich quick!

    • Old Tricks

      What kind of salt can I use on the roof and in the gutter that is safe for the environment too? BTW people don’t let them manipulate you with fear. Try to find out the truth then you can make clear, wise decisions based on facts. Some of our politicians, news reports, and government officials have been bad role models in the past. It makes it hard for the tax payers when we have to read between the lines and with current trust issues. Facts seemed buried beneath the cold.

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  • Tom

    Tppical DeRusha bit. High on cute, low on information. You never even defined what an ice dam is, and what specific harm it can do. Your missed an opportunity to advise the public on how to select and evaluate one of the many firms attempting to cash in on roof snow an dice removal, and what one should expect to pay for various services, bases on size and type of roof, etc. You can do better.

  • DeRushA

    We have done reporting on every topic you guys are talking about in the comments. In fact, we did some of those stories on the same day this story appeared. We were addressing a specific question: what’s the difference between an icicle and an ice dam.

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