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LeafGuard of SE Wisconsin

What is the difference between Ice Dams and Icicles?

10 January 2019

Unsurprisingly, a lot of people have a hard time determining if what they are experiencing on their home in the winter are just normal icicles from fluctuating temperatures, or if it is a more serious ice damming issue. It is hard to tell when you live in the Midwest because of the temperatures plummeting overnight and then warming up in the day causing run off and refreezing. Icicles easily form on the outside of gutters and other areas of your home when this happens. Icicles are quite harmless- they remain on the outside of gutters and other edges of your home and don’t affect the internal structure of your roof. Most of the time you can simply gently knock them down with a broom and that will solve this issue. If they are over an area of concern (like a walkway, doorway, or porch) and you would like to prevent them from forming at all in those areas, there are heat cables you can run through the inside of the gutter which should prevent any icicle formation. There are companies that will install these for you as well.

If you have LeafGuard gutters, icicle and snow build up are guaranteed not to hurt the integrity of the structure. LeafGuard is made with .032 gauge heavy duty aluminum and is 20% thicker than your standard gutter on the market which means they can handle a lot– Unlike other brands that are not sturdy enough to stand the weight of snow and ice buildup. Other gutter brands can actually pull away from the fascia board or buckle under the weight causing an abundance of new issues to arise.  That’s the last thing you need to worry about if you have an actual ice damming issue already wreaking havoc on your roof on top of it! So let’s talk about what ice damming truly is.

The number one thing to remember is that just because you have icicles does not mean that you have ice damming, so don’t panic just yet. As the DIY experts from Family Handyman Magazine describe it; “Ice dams are continuous chunks of ice that form along the edges of your roof. When still frozen, they’re no more trouble than the icicles that hang down from your home. However, the problem is that during the warmer parts of a winter day, water melting off the roof pools behind the ice, then seeps back up under the shingles.” Ice dams along the eaves of your roof prevent all the other snow and water that has gathered further up the roof from actually draining down into the gutters. This in turn can lead to standing water and even more roofing issues, leaks, and water damage simply because the water, ice, and snow have nowhere else to go but soak into your home!

A lot of people think gutters are to blame when this happens, but ice damming can happen regardless of the type or style of gutters that you have. It has nothing or little to do with your gutters in general. In fact, it can happen on homes that do not have gutters at all! This is because ice damming is most commonly a result of poor attic insulation and poor attic ventilation. You can have plenty of insulation in your attic, but if you do not have the proper ventilation you can still experience ice dams and vice versa. The insulation and ventilation in your attic need to work together to expel warm air in your attic area out properly to prevent the melting of the snow pack on your roof and allowing the structure to perform how it is supposed to. Another thing to keep in mind is that ice damming is not always a cause for concern either. So long as your roof is protected and has been properly installed with an Ice and Water barrier, you should not get water in your home as a result of an ice dam.


Hopefully now you can identify the difference between icicles and ice damming. If ice damming is causing an issue with your home be sure to take proper measures to resolve that issue. Roof leaks and water damage are a huge concern- especially for people living in the Midwest and those who deal with longer and harsher winters. Any signs of water damage on your ceiling or walls may be a sign you are experiencing an issue with ice damming or a roof leak. Water damage spots can vary in color but they are usually easy to spot. Keep an eye out for signs of water damage as the sooner you can identify the issue, the easier it is to fix.


Check out our other blogs for more home improvement tips and information.