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November 30, 2023

What are Ice Dams and How to Prevent Them?

Winter’s arrival brings picturesque scenes of frost on windowpanes, snow people in the yard, snow-covered roofs, and icicles hanging from eaves. However, the season’s snowy charm also can bring headaches for homeowners such as icy sidewalks, snow removal, and ice dams

Understanding what ice dams are and how to prevent them is important for homeowners in cold climates. In this blog post, we will explore the dangers of ice dams and share advice on how to keep them at bay.

Understanding Ice Dams

An ice dam is a ridge of ice that forms at the edge of your roof, preventing melting snow from draining off. As the snow on your roof melts due to the warmth from your home or the sun, it runs down toward the eaves, which are typically colder because they extend beyond the heated interior of your house. As this melted snow reaches the eaves, it can refreeze, creating a barrier of ice that prevents water from being properly diverted away from your home. 

Ice dams can cause significant damage to your home: 

  • Roof Damage: Ice dams can damage your roof’s shingles and underlayment. As the ice melts, it can infiltrate the gaps between your shingles, causing leaks and structural damage.
  • Interior Water Damage: Water trapped behind ice dams can find its way into your home, leading to stains on ceilings, damaged walls, and even mold growth. These issues can be costly to repair.
  • Gutter and Downspout Damage: The weight of ice dams can damage your gutters and downspouts. As these components become compromised, they may need repair or replacement.

Prevention Strategies

Preventing ice dams is not only essential to protect your home, it also can save you money. Ice dams can prevent proper attic ventilation, leading to energy inefficiency and causing your heating bills to soar. Here are some strategies you can employ to minimize the risk of ice dams forming on your roof:

  1. Ensure Proper Insulation: Ensure your attic is well-insulated to prevent warm air from escaping and heating the roof. Proper insulation will keep the attic and roof cold, reducing the chances of ice dams forming.
  2. Check Ventilation: Adequate ventilation is crucial for maintaining consistent temperatures in your attic, and keeping your attic cold can prevent snow from melting on your roof.

RELATED CONTENT: How to Know If You Have an Attic Ventilation Problem

  1. Seal Gaps and Leaks: Seal any gaps or leaks around your chimneys, plumbing vents, and light fixtures to prevent warm air from escaping. 
  2. Remove Snow: Safely remove snow from your roof. Keeping the snow load on your roof to a minimum will reduce the likelihood of ice dams forming.
  3. Clean Gutters: It’s always a good idea to perform regular maintenance of your gutters. At least twice a year, inspect your gutters and remove debris like leaves and twigs.

RELATED CONTENT: Dangerous Leaves! The Hidden Impacts of Debris on Your Roof and Siding

  1. Install Heated Cables: Consider installing heated cables along the eaves and gutters to help prevent the buildup of ice dams by keeping these areas warmer.
  2. Consult a Professional: If you’re unsure about how to properly insulate your attic, address ventilation issues, or take any other preventative measures, consult a professional. Regular roof inspections can identify any issues that may contribute to ice dam formation, such as damaged or missing shingles. An experienced roofer can assess your home and recommend the best solutions for your specific situation.

If you live in a cold climate, ice dams could pose a threat to your roof, home interior, and finances. By implementing preventative measures, you can significantly reduce the risk to your home. Taking action to keep your roof and attic in top condition will help you enjoy a warm, dry, and stress-free winter season. Want to learn more? Check out our top 5 tips for preparing your roof for winter.