Ice Dams on Your Roof: Prevention, What They Are, and How to Take Care of Them

During the wintertime, we shovel our sidewalks, defrost our cars, and salt the roads and walkways. But snow and ice can do more damage to our homes than they do on the ground. Here’s what you need to know about ice dams and how to prevent them from forming on your roof…

3 Ice Dam FAQs

1. What is an Ice Dam?

An Ice Dam is a ridge of ice that forms near the edge of a roof, prevents water drainage, and causes more ice to freeze and build up on the rooftop.

2. What Causes Ice Dams?

  • Variable changes in weather can be a cause of ice dams, especially in cold weather climates when winter turns to spring. The combination of warm days, cold nights, rainy weather, and melting snow can cause uneven drainage of melting snow and rain runoff on the rooftops.
  • Insufficient insulation can lead to ice dams forming over colder, more poorly insulated patches on your roof. The warmer, better-insulated parts of your roof will allow snow and ice to melt and then build up even more on the ice dam.

3. Does an Ice Dam mean Damage?

When an ice dam accumulates, it prevents melting snow from running off into the drainpipes. As water pools up behind a drainpipe, it can waterlog the shingles and leak into the attic sometimes even causing mildew and mold. If ice dams form on the edge of your roof, it can mean damage and breakage to your drainpipes.

Preventing Ice Dams on Your Roof

Preventing ice dams from outside

Here’s what you need to know to take on potential ice dams on top of your home. With a ladder and a quick trip to Home Depot for supplies, you’ll be set to go. Take heated cables, attach them with clips along the edge of your roof, and shape the cables in a zigzag pattern. This arrangement of the heated cables will prevent ice from forming and building up into ice dams. Just make sure to set it up before bad weather hits!

Preventing ice dams from inside

    • Increasing ventilation
      Installing a ridge vent paired with continuous soffit vents can help create more circulation of cold air under the whole roof. Be sure the vents are uniform in size and are placed at even distances from one another on the roof (this site recommends 1 square foot of opening for every 300 square feet of attic floor.
    • Keep warm air in
      Keeping even temperature regulation under your roof is key to preventing ice and snow buildup. Take a look at your attic hatch– if it’s not sealed tight, it’s time to get to work. Seal off your attic hatch or whole house ceiling fan with weather-stripped caps made from foil-faced foam board held together with aluminum tape. An uncapped attic hatch or whole house ceiling fan can be a huge source of warm air leakage
    • Adding Insulation
      Adding more insulation to the inside of your attic keeps the heat inside your home, and creates an even temperature inside your roof and on top of it too. Insulation can also serve to seal off every possible air leak that might warm or cool the underside of the roof. With a well-insulated roof, snow and ice will stay cold on your rooftop, and melting runoff water will drain off into the drainpipes.

How to Remove an Ice Dam

If you’ve discovered ice dams on your roof, all is not lost. There are a few things you can do to keep an ice dam from creating long-lasting damage to your home.

  • Rake it: a long-handled rake with wheels will gently break up ice on your roof without damaging the shingles.
  • Melt through it: With a bit of creativity, you can create a trough through the ice dam using a tube of cloth soaked in calcium chloride ice melter. Old pantyhose works great– but any old rags will do just fine too. Place the tube vertically above the ice dam and it will slide down melting a tunnel through the ice as it goes.

Ice dams can cause major damage to your roofing and even the inside of your home; even the best prevention methods can fall apart at the hands of mother nature sometimes. If your roof has been affected by ice dams or other kinds of winter weather damage, call CoMitted 365 to learn more about the variety of roof repair services we offer.