Roof Ice Dam (Sid the Snowflake)

The Adventures of Sid the Snowflake (Trapped Behind an Ice Dam)

Sid tumbled through the sky at the mercy of the wind. One gust sent him hurling up, back toward the gray mist that he’d just departed from, then another would suddenly push him down, spinning him in a different direction. He tried to catch a glimpse of the ground below as he careened through the stormy heavens, but all he could see was a sky full of his fellow snowflakes, all in the same predicament. Not knowing whether he was going to land in the ocean, on solid ground, or on the backside of a cow, Sid was filled with the angst of an uncertain future. A voice suddenly broke his reflective solitude.

“I’ll see you on the ground!” another snowflake yelled to him, seemingly enjoying his carefree flight.

“Alright,” Sid responded with trepidation as he glided closer and closer to earth. “Good luck!”

Illustration of Sid the snowflake

Sid knew the chance of seeing this new acquaintance again was slim. Snowflakes that begin their decent together often ended up miles apart by the time they reach the ground. Still, Sid took some comfort in the friendly words and embraced a small sense of reassurance offered by the stranger. Sid was just one of millions who were facing the uncertainty of an unknown destination. This was all part of their cycle of life.

The gusty winds subsided during Sid’s descent, and as visibility increased he could make out forms on the approaching ground. Sid’s last journey took him on an exciting adventure in the Northern Pacific Ocean, and he was half expecting the same. During that adventure, he enjoyed seeing a wide variety of exotic marine life, and he even had the experience of rolling across the back of a small humpback whale.

But today would be much, much different. There was land below. Not only was there land, there were people! Sid was headed for a city. He had fallen into a small town once before, and though the experience wasn’t horrible, it was far from being his favorite. Being scooped up in a shovel and tossed aside to be splattered by dirty, ill-mannered slush from passing cars was something he really hoped he wouldn’t have to endure again.

As he drifted toward the ground, Sid could see that many of his peers had arrived earlier, blanketing the uneven ground and buildings with a pristine layer of white. He plotted his landing and prepared for his arrival in the front yard of a small farm house. But a sudden gust tossed him aside and onto the roof of the house. He breathed a sigh of relief, grateful to be on a roof and not in some cow pasture. He was quickly joined by others, and the group settled in, not yet sure of their fate.

After four uneventful days on the roof, Sid started feeling a bit “loosey goosey” as warm air escaping from the attic warmed the roof and tickled his rear end. He watched as friends around him collapsed from their frozen state into clear liquid, each letting out a loud “whoo hoo” as they tumbled down the roof valley. They zigzagged their way down the giant water slide before crashing into a growing pool that had formed behind a large ridge of ice near the roof’s edge.

Then it was Sid’s turn. As his last frozen foothold gave way, he cascaded toward his friends, clumsily bumping into a few stubborn packs of ice before being released into the small pool. This would be Sid’s new home for a few days. The large ice dam wasn’t going to allow any of them to drip into the gutter or downspout anytime in the near future.

Illustration showing how roof ice dams form

Apparently, the ice dam had been growing long before Sid’s arrival. The shingles were much warmer higher up on the roof, but the surface near the roof’s edge was still cold. The roof extended out from the house, so there was no warm air from the attic.  When drops of melted snow trickled down into the freezing valley below, they collected and then during the cold nights, they transformed back into their frozen state. Without the warmth escaping from the attic as it did near the top of the roof, the frozen water would remain where it was, completely at the mercy of Mother Nature. Here Sid and his drippy friends would dwell until they could find a way past the ice dam. They could only wait for the temperature to slowly warm.

The process of melting and refreezing behind the formidable ice dam had repeated several times before Sid had arrived. And now, trapped behind the ice, Sid and his friends would also take part in that process. As night fell on another cold day, Sid and his companions once again changed back into their frozen state. They could do nothing but wait for warmer weather.

With each passing day, the crowd grew larger as runoff from warm areas of the roof increased the pool’s size. Milling about like restless concert goers awaiting the opening act, some of Sid’s cohorts grew impatient.

“Let’s work our way through this place and drip inside the house,” he heard one say. Soon, a plan was hatched, and an ample collection of rebellious drips began their unconventional trek. Aided by gravity, they wound their way down through a maze of tiny cracks in the roof. If a crack came to an end or became too small, they would wait patiently for the freezing temperature to grant them their super powers. As they transformed into ice, they expanded with tremendous force, enlarging the existing cracks and preparing a way for them to continue their journey when they resumed their watery ways. With each night and freezing day, the group inched its way through the aging roof. Before long, a trail had been blazed, creating a small stream for others to follow. It didn’t take long for one of the walls in the home to begin absorbing a budding contingent of melted snowflakes. It swelled and warped as more drips piled in.

“Oh man, this drywall stuff is nasty,” one said.

“It’s an acquired taste,” one old timer replied. “Mmm, mmm,” he mumbled as he slithered down the wall.

“Dude,” quipped another, “like wow man, I don’t think this was a good idea. We’re totally gonna end up getting cut outta here and trashed. Ugh, gnarly man.”

Sid had no intention of sliding down into the house. The idea of seeping into a home seemed unnatural. Besides, he hated the taste of plaster and drywall, and the last thing he wanted was to become a filament of mildew or mold on a gross, stained wall. He didn’t mind waiting with the others behind the ice dam.

Unfortunately, the homeowner hadn’t installed a roof deicing system, which would have prevented Sid’s derelict friends from becoming troublesome drips and trespassing into the house. Eventually however, the homeowner used a roof rake to chip away at the ice dam.

“Whoa!” Sid observed to a nearby friend as the rake slammed down and scraped the ice. “If he’s not careful, he’s gonna damage the roof shingles and then more drips will seep into his home next time.”

“Eh, whadaya gonna do?” his friend shrugged. “I just wanna blow this popsicle stand. C’mon man, let’s get outta here.”

With the dam broken away, Sid and his friends tumbled into the gutter.  He’d made a journey like this once before, resting on a Utah rooftop for over a week before finding his way back to a stream, and eventually back in to the clouds – where he was happiest. After another epic journey through gutters and drains and streams, Sid finally found himself swaying gently in a small lake.

He looked up to the stars that shimmered through the wisps of clouds drifting in the moonlight. “Someday,” he reflected, “I’ll be back up there.” The ice dam held Sid for awhile, but now he was on his way home – he hoped. He floated on his back and stared at the sparkling nighttime sky and promised himself, “Soon I’ll find my way back up to the sky. Maybe the sun will warm us up tomorrow, and then I’ll float up to the clouds.” He closed his eyes and drifted to sleep.

Installing a Heated Driveway

How is a Heated Driveway Installed?

Whether you’re looking to install a radiant snow melting system in concrete, asphalt, or under pavers, it doesn’t take much to make a heated driveway a reality. The important thing to remember is that a radiant snow melting system is only as good as its installation. That’s why Warmzone emphasizes customer support services such as free training and personal installation support. But how is a heated driveway system installed?

Snow melting system overview

Click image to enlarge.

First, a Warmzone radiant heat expert will work with you to determine the specs and products that will best meet the specific needs of your custom project. After verifying receipt of the heat cable and system components, prepare the area where the system is being installed. Make sure there are no nails, sharp rocks or other items present that can cause damage to the heating cable.

Heated driveway installation with Mesh-Up supports

If you are installing a concrete heated driveway, install wire remesh in the area to be heated. Once the remesh is laid out, heat cable is then installed and secured to the remesh using zip ties.  This keeps the cable from shifting during the concrete pour. Mesh-Up plastic supports are then installed to lift the remesh and prevent the heat cable from resting on the ground. (The heat cable should be about two inches from the finished surface.)

With the Mesh-Ups installed and the cable secured to the remesh, concrete can now be poured over the heating cable/mats. Take care to not damage the heating cable. A typical slab is 4-inches thick. Follow your concrete contractor’s installation methods and follow all building codes. The heating cable is to be within 2-inches of the finished surface.

Mesh-Ups under remesh, supporting heat cable

Click image to enlarge.

Most heated driveway systems utilize an aerial mount snow sensor to activate the system. This is typically installed at the roof’s edge where it has open access to the elements. When precipitation is present and the temperature is below the set point (usually set at 39°F), the sensor signals the contactor panel and power is then sent to the heat cable.

View additional “How to” Videos from Warmzone.

Important Note: For warranty and safety purposes, it is necessary for a qualified electrician to connect the system.