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Ice Dam Removal for Historic Homes & Historic Buildings

Winter can be hard on all of us, but it can be extra frustrating for those who live in historic buildings. These older homes frequently have vulnerabilities that newer construction won’t experience. Whether that’s below freezing wind that sneaks through the single pane windows or the chill from inefficient home heating, older structures can have a harder time maintaining comfort during winter. Due to these unique peculiarities, historic homes require special considerations during winter to ensure you maintain their integrity.

This is an older home, made of red bricks, that has ornate architecture and looks to be historic. It has many icicles from an ice dam hanging off its steep roof. The Ice Dam Guys' logo is superimposed over the image.

Why Historic Buildings Are at Risk of Ice Dams:

Those who own or manage historic buildings will usually have a love/hate relationship with the property. Some of the home’s old-world charm and character that can be so desirable, can also become impractical or inefficient.

For historic properties built from the 1800s to the 1940s, winter presents a unique set of challenges, particularly concerning ice dam formation. These structures, with their distinctive architectural features and often aging infrastructure, tend to breed ice dams.

More than likely, if your historic home hasn’t been updated through renovations, you’re going to have some chinks in your armor. Outdated attic insulation, older roofing materials, numerous attic bypasses, and the general lack of energy efficiency contribute to more ice dams.

Unique Challenges Working On Historic Homes:

Removing ice dams from historic homes and buildings requires a certain type of finesse that the Ice Dam Guys® have perfected over the last 25+ years! We utilize 100% steam ice dam removal and the benefits of using this approach on older properties include:

  • Preservation of Architectural Integrity: Like all antiques, a small “oops” to a historic home can be very difficult, if not impossible, to repair to its original glory. This is why any work or repairs to the home must be done with sensitivity to the historical significance and architectural style of the home. We want to preserve your cherished home and using non-abrasive 100% steam to gently remove your ice dams is the only way to do that!
  • Older Construction Techniques: Historic homes may have been built with techniques or materials that are less effective at preventing ice dams compared to modern standards. This can often include inferior roofing, notable attic bypasses, unique (often broken) gutter systems, and aging materials; each a spot for water leaks and damming. The only way to reduce your chances of a water leaking hazard is to thaw your gutters and downspouts ASAP to get the ice dam removed.

Thankfully, if you do encounter an ice dam, we’re open 24/7 and just a call away! We’re happy to help with emergency ice dam removal but the reality is that you’re likely going to get another if you don’t fix the underlying issue. It’s our recommendation that you use any warm breaks in the weather or springtime to get prepared for the next storm or season.

This photo shows a historic home with old clay tiles and copper gutters. The house is ornate and covered in ice dams at the gutters.

Ice Dam Prevention Strategies for Historic Homes:

Unlike new construction, you can’t always trust that your historic home is up to modern codes and standards. When you have a break in the weather, we recommend exploring the below solutions for your home.

  • Roof and Attic Insulation: When possible, call a home energy expert to perform an energy audit. More than likely they’re going to tell you your historic home falls behind. Commonly they’ll recommend enhancing insulation in the attic to help maintain an even roof temperature, thus reducing the likelihood of ice dam formation. In historic homes, care must be taken to choose insulation materials that are compatible with the building’s structure and do not compromise its historical integrity.
  • Ventilation Improvements: Proper attic ventilation helps keep the roof deck cold and prevents the melting and refreezing cycle that leads to ice dams. For historic homes, it’s important to implement ventilation solutions that do not alter the home’s historical appearance but also properly solve your current challenges. You may need new ducts run or get existing ones improved.
  • Reducing Attic Bypasses: We’ve said this word a lot and it’s because it’s important and often a culprit. Attic bypasses are where interior warm air unintentionally leaks into the cooler attic. Not only is this inefficient and expensive, but it also exacerbates ice dams forming on the roof. Wherever you have ceiling lighting, ceiling fans, wall-mounted heat registers or returns, attic access doors, and other gaps to the attic, you could have an attic bypass. Each of those needs to be fixed.
  • Snow Removal Plans: Regularly removing snow from the roof, especially after heavy snowfall, is crucial. This must be done gently to avoid damaging the often fragile roofing materials of historic homes. We usually recommend something like a snow roof rake. If you can’t get that to work, but need the snow removed, it’s almost always safest and best to call professionals like us to climb up there.

Can you avoid ice dams completely? No, some properties that face north or rest in the shade under mature vegetation, will always be more prone to ice dams. But if you address the areas of improvement we shared above, your chances are reduced and you’ll be in better shape if one does form.

This image is of a brick home from that was likely build a couple of generations ago. it has steep roof lines and looks older but very regal and well built. It has incredibly long icicles from an ice dam hanging off the front roof. Some are well over 10 feet long and it's quite impressive!

Working With the Ice Dam Removal Experts:

Managing ice dams in historic homes is a delicate task that requires balancing the preservation of the home’s historical character with the need for effective ice dam prevention. By employing thoughtful, historically-sensitive strategies, owners and caretakers can protect these one-of-a-kind properties from the damaging effects of winter weather. If you do need help with ice dams, that’s where we come in!

If you have any questions or need emergency ice dam removal for your historic home, please call us at 1-800-423-3267 or contact us online. We’re ready to take your call 24/7.

We often experience extreme call volume during peak ice dam season. Therefore, we encourage you to please call us as early as possible.

Mention you read our Ice Dam Awareness: Historic Homes & Buildings and we’ll take 10% off your project!


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