Have you ever wished that you had a great way to tell whether or not ice dams are becoming a problem that needs your immediate attention? If only they had indicator lights or something similar to tell you when it’s time to call an ice dam removal service so you don’t spend money before you have to, or worse, so you don’t end up with a big leak in your house!

While you don’t get cool little blinking red and green lights, such an indicator system does in fact exist, and it was brought to you directly by Mother Nature herself. Though not foolproof, keeping an eye on icicles is a great way to tell when you need to call for ice dam removal before a leak starts.

Small Icicles

Tiny icicles—the ones that are no bigger than a Christmas tree ornament—are generally okay.

However, all icicles are an indication that snow is melting and re-freezing on your roof. And since melting, re-freezing snow is what causes an ice dam in the first place, those little, pretty, twinkly icicles still have a message for you.

The message is: get your roof rake! You have a chance to prevent ice dams right now if you get all of the snow off of your roof. If you don’t, those icicles are likely to grow until they are the byproduct of a true ice dam.

There’s another message as well. You should be thinking about getting a home energy audit so you can find out why your roof is warm enough to melt snow. While it’s possible you could be getting ice dams as a result of the sun’s rays, more often than not ice dams are the result of inadequate insulation and/or ventilation. Sometimes, you’re also getting warm air leaks in your attic. Either way, it’s important to get the root causes of your ice dam problem checked out.

Large Icicles

When you’ve got icicles that are as thick as your hand or as long as your arm, an ice dam has started to form. It may not be leaking yet, but you’ve definitely got one.

At this point, it is too late to reach for your roof rake, but you’ve still got an opportunity to “beat the leak.” You can call for ice dam removal right now.

There are several advantages to doing this.

First and foremost, you will be able to catch the ice dam before it starts leaking. By the time a leak starts your home is already getting damaged, and that damage will need repairs. Repairs cost money, so early removal is great for your wallet.

Second, a smaller ice dam takes less time to remove, which means you’re spending less money on the removal process itself.

Third—and this is a little known secret—when one person has a leak, just about everyone in town does. The conditions that cause ice dam leaks are the same all over town. By the time you have a leak it might be challenging to get an ice dam removal company on the phone in the first place! They’re all out responding to everyone else’s emergency. There is nothing more stressful than reaching for buckets, hoping against hope that you can get someone, anyone, on the phone.

And when you finally do get someone on the phone, it may not be the type of ice dam removal professional you really want to trust. Addressing the problem now gives you the opportunity to research companies so you can choose someone who is worth doing business with.

Ice On Your Siding

At this point, you should be dialing your phone as quickly and as frantically as your fingers will allow. Who you gonna call? Not the Ghostbusters (male or female). Hopefully, you’re calling ice dam removal guys, because guess what? You’ve got roughly minutes (to a day or so if you’re lucky) before water starts pouring into your home.  In fact, water may already be inside your wall cavity, but it’s being soaked up by the insulation like a sponge, so you don’t see it yet.

Ice on your siding means that water is already working its way under your shingles. It is only a matter of time before it works its way into your home, too.  At this point, time is not on your side!

If you did have some sort of indicator light system to tell you when it’s time to call for ice dam removal those lights would be blinking a frantic red right about now.

Dirty, Brown Icicles

If you have a cedar shake roof your icicles are going to look dirty brown no matter what, so this indicator won’t be very useful for you.

But if you have an asphalt roof, then dirty, brown icicles of any size ought to make you sit up and take notice, because they are telling you one of two things is happening.

Either this icicle-making water is collecting dirt from atop your roof, or it’s getting discolored by soot. Where is this water collecting dirt and soot from? Either from UNDER your shingles, or from your chimney…two places where you do not want water to be.

You don’t always have to be an ice dam professional to know when it’s time to call one.

Sometimes, you just have to pay attention. Icicles are easy to see, which means they’re easy to respond to. Are you paying attention to your icicles?