Protecting Your Home from Ice Dams

February 19, 2015

Spring is not quite here yet, but as temperatures gradually begin to warm, it can seem tempting to start to forget about the lingering winter weather and downplay continual risks to the safety of your property. On such risk that remains throughout the winter and as temperatures begin to warm is ice dams. Property damage from ice dams can be serious, including structural damages to your roof and water damage to the interior of your home.

These are costly damages that can be avoided by taking steps to reduce the risk of ice dams forming. Fortunately, there are several simple steps you can take throughout the year to reduce the risk of ice dams. This is important because ice dams are not exclusively a winter problem since water damage ensues once the ice begins to melt. Here are some helpful tips to protect your home from ice dams.

Insulate the Attic

The first and most important step toward preventing ice dams is to insulate the attic well. Ice dams form as heat rises to the attic, melts snow pack high on the roof, enabling runoff to accumulate along the gutters and eaves and refreeze. Making sure that the attic floor is well insulated will help keep excessive heat out. Seal openings and weatherstrip around access doors to minimize the passage of heat.

Ventilate the Attic

In addition to good insulation, be sure that the attic is well ventilated to allow cold outside air to circulate and reduce the temperature of the roof system. The colder the attic, the less freezing and thawing, and consequently, reduced potential for ice dams. Properly ventilating the attic can be done in a couple of ways. Eave vents, soffit vents, or ridge vents are the most optimal designs for attic ventilation and modern roofs have a combination of these vents.

Any household heat that penetrates the attic should be able to rise and escape through a ridge vent while a soffit or eave vent pulls in cold air to replace it. Good ventilation combined with proper insulation should be highly effective in preventing ice dams from forming.

Removing Ice Dams

If ice dams do form along the roof, there are a number of ways you can go about removing them. Chipping or breaking up ice dams should generally be avoided since this can cause damage to your roof. You can always call a roof professional to address the problem if you cannot do it yourself. For less sloped roofs, clearing the snow off the roof can address part of the problem, but you should still ensure that your attic is ventilated and insulated.

Use a shovel or adjustable snow rake to push snow off the roof. For steep roofs, a snow rake is necessary since mounting the roof can be very dangerous in snowy, icy conditions. For serious ice dams, you can also apply snow salt directly to the ice. Of course, the most effective solution is prevention, so take steps to prepare your home to resist ice dams year round.

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