What is an Ice Dam and How Do I Prevent Them?

Anyone who lives in an area of the country which sees cold, snowy winters has had to deal with ice dams on the roof of their home. During the winter, snow piles up on top of a home. Then, on warmer days, and as the snow naturally melts from the warmth coming up through your attic, the moisture runs down your roof. The water re-freezes when it reaches the colder edges of the roof.

The process happens again and again throughout the winter. Not only do you have to worry about ice dams breaking off and potentially falling on people or property, but melting snow can also seep up under your shingles and cause damage to your roofing panels, attic and ceilings.

Fortunately, this recurring problem can be prevented with a few easy fixes:

  1. Add more insulation to your attic if necessary. Your attic should have around 12-14 inches of insulating material installed. Blown-in fiberglass or cellulose insulation is able to cover wider areas better than hand-placed batting material. The insulation will need to be installed around floor joists and rafters. This can make your home more air-tight and prevent heat loss which may cause the snow to melt.
  2. Seal up air gaps in the attic. Most heat lost in a home escapes through openings in the attic. Use proper weather-stripping materials around cracks, light fixtures, piping, access doors, unblocked walls or floor joists and around your chimney.
  3. Use a snow rake to remove piles of snow from your roof. This may be an exhausting job after a heavy snowfall, but it may be worth it in several days when the snow starts to melt. This solution should only be used on single-story homes because using a long snow rake while trying to stand on a ladder can be dangerous.

These tips will help you prevent damaging ice dams at your home this winter.