January 4th , 2017

This winter weather is unlike any we have had in years.  The 10 inches of snow on the ground in the valley ties as the most snow on the grounds since Dec. 1985 (  That was before Hallmark Homes was even in business!

As a custom home builder in the valley, have received a few phone calls and e-mails in the past couple of days regarding ice dams.  The abnormal amount of snow that we have received, combined with the below average temperatures, mixed in with the occasional sunshine are a perfect recipe for an ice dam to form.

Ice dams form when the outside temperature is below freezing, the roof deck temperature is above freezing, and there is snow on the roof.

The occasional sunshine will warm the shingles and the roof deck even when the air temperature is below freezing.  This causes  the snow on top of the roof deck to melt, this water runs down to the edge of the roof where the water freezes leading to a buildup of ice and a backup of water, hence the term “dam”.

Here are a few ideas to get rid of ice dams that have formed.

1. Remove the ice dam by breaking it free in small chucks. DO NOT use an ax or other sharp tool! You’ll cut through the shingles. Instead, tap lightly with a blunt mallet. This is slow, dangerous work, so hire someone experienced at roofing. Even if you do it safely, the chunks of ice can take pieces of shingle with them, so be aware that this might not be a good solution.

As a side note: Another thing that helps is to pull down the snow using a roof rake

2. Clear out gutters and downspouts. Again, this is ladder work and an easy way to damage either plastic or metal gutters or spouts. It’s also a good idea to knock down any icicles that may have formed that could fall and hurt someone or damage something on the ground.

3. BEST METHOD IS TO JUST WAIT! — Patience protects your gutters

In fact, once your gutters are frozen solid, your best bet may be to wait it out.

The only time it would be advised to try to touch an ice dam is if it’s going into the shingles and dripping into the house.  Trying to break it up is dangerous, and you can damage the gutters.

When building your new home, we add an underlayment which provides adequate protection to the sheathing that the shingles are nailed to.  So, even if an ice dam looks bad from the ground, unless it’s dripping inside the house, there is no reason to try to take down the dam.

Waiting it out is the best way to deal with an ice dam that has formed.

The good news is that there is some warmer weather in the forecast.  That mixed with the rain that is coming should take care of these winter weather issues.


To permanently prevent future freezes, our gutter contractor recommends, installing a heating panel system, in which wires or heating elements run the length of the gutter and downspout that warm the metal and prevent ice buildup.  That’s the only 100 percent way to ensure it’ll never happen again.

Please consult a professional installer to add this type of system to your house.

A quick search on the internet will point you to several companies that install such systems.  But, again, it hasn’t snowed like this in the Boise area for more than 30 years, so this type of system might not have the best return on investment.

The good news is that warmer temperatures are around the corner and that Bogus Basin and surrounding ski resorts are getting lots and lots of powder!  If you don’t see us at the job sites this week, you’ll know that we are probably up in the mountains taking advantage of the white stuff!

Tamarack Resort

Bogus Basin




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