Prevent Ice Dams This Winter to Prolong the Life of Your Roof

Regardless of how old your roof is, it’s important to prolong the life of it by addressing ice dams during the winter. Ice dams can do major damage to both your roof and the exterior walls of your home, and homeowners need to be aware of the signs and be proactive about prevention.

Gutters with ice dam and broom for raking snow off of roof

What Causes Ice Dams

Ice dams typically form when there is snow on the roof. If the average outdoor temperature is below freezing, and your roof surface temperature is above freezing at the high point and below freezing along the edges, you have an environment perfect for ice dam formation. Indoor heat loss through the attic will melt the snow at the top of the roof, but as the water runs down, it is trapped by frozen water along the cold edges. The dam will grow as it is fed by melting snow, and the water held above the dam will begin to back up.

Risk of Ice Dams to a New Roof

The water sitting above the ice dam will stagnate on the roof. Eventually, this pooling water will find small cracks and flow into the attic, seep into the ceiling, and may possibly find its way along the interior walls. The resulting water damage can be significant over time. If a large ice dam gets too heavy, it can damage gutters and the roof edges, resulting in costly repairs needed both inside and outside of your home.

What to do if You Notice an Ice Dam

If you notice an ice dam forming, it’s important to address it. You can do this in several ways:

  • Use a roof rake after heavy snowfalls.
  • Use an ice-melt product on a forming ice dam.
  • Chip off the ice. Do NOT attempt to climb onto your roof to do this. If you can reach the eaves safely with a ladder, you may be able to chip away enough ice by hand to allow the melted water to flow off the roof.
  • Hire a professional to assess and remedy.

How to Prevent Ice Dams

The best way to prevent ice dams is to ensure that the air in the attic against the roof doesn’t get too warm. The air in the attic should remain cool enough where it will not melt the snow laying on top of the roof. Ventilation under the roof deck will keep colder outside air circulating through the attic. Insulation in the ceiling below the attic will prevent warm air from rising and escaping into the attic space. Any heat sources that could contribute to high temperatures in the attic should be blocked. These three steps can make a big difference. Homes with good attic ventilation generally will not experience any ice dams. If you have recently installed a new roof, or know that you will not need a new roof for several more years, you can still address attic ventilation or ceiling insulation with a reputable contractor.

While improving ventilation and insulation are the best way to prevent ice dams, sometimes it won’t be enough for homes that are particularly prone to these circumstances. In this case, an electric heat cable can be installed along the edge of the roofline and gutters. This heat source will prevent melting water from cooling enough to freeze along the edges. The water will simply keep flowing and never re-freeze, causing the dam.

Finally, it’s important to make sure that your gutters are clean and your downspouts are functioning properly. If your gutters and downspouts are clogged with leaves and the water has nowhere to go, it is much more prone to forming an ice dam.

Your roof is a major investment, and it’s important to be proactive and make sure that you are not allowing ice dams to form on your home. If you have trouble with ice dams on your home and you suspect your old roof with improper ventilation is to blame, it’s probably time to think about getting a new roof installed. Trust Armorvue Home Exteriors with your roof replacement this year. We offer quality products and expert installation. Our roofing specialists can help guide you through the process and discuss ways to put an end to ice dams once and for all with a properly insulated and ventilated new roof. Contact us today for a virtual appointment.


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