Preventing Ice Dams

Icicles hanging from a roof shingles

Ahh, it’s that wonderful time of year when snow and ice is coating the ground. It’s a great time of year if you love ice fishing and snowmobiling, but it might not be so great if you have an old home with a leaky roof. In order to prevent your home (or business) from a winter disaster caused by an ice dam, check out our tips.

What is an Ice Dam?

An ice dam occurs when ice builds up on the eaves of a sloped roof. This can happen to heated homes and buildings. When snow piles up on the roof and gets packed down, the bottom layer begins to melt. Once it melts, it moves to the eve of the sloped roof and freezes there. If not taken care of, this can lead to major problems.

Winter Disasters Caused by Ice Dams

Sure, icicles may look pretty hanging from your roof, but the same conditions that cause icicles cause ice dams, too. The solid ice that builds up on the eaves may cause shingles to loosen and fall off. They can even tear off gutters. If water backs up into the home because of ice dams, there are a slew of other problems that can also happen. Water damage can cause paint and wallpaper to peel. Ceilings and floors may have water stains and floors can warp. If the insulation gets wet, it’ll get soggy. Soggy insulation can lead to mold and mildew and it also won’t work as well.

Prevention and Fixes

If you have a sloped roof and you’re worried about ice dams forming, you may want to install heated cables. Clipping them in a zig-zag pattern will “equalize the roof’s temperature by heating it from the outside.” Of course, this will need to be done before the snow comes.

If an ice dam has formed on your roof, put the hammer and salt away. Trying to chisel the ice away can damage your roof, as can throwing salt on it. If water is leaking in, place a box fan in your attic and aim it at the leak to freeze the water. You may also take a roof rake to your roof, which is designed to safely pull the snow from your roof, therefore changing the temperature of the roof.

More permanent fixes are more of a summer project. Eliminating air leaks, increasing ventilation, and adding more insulation can prevent the warming under your roof that can lead to ice dams.

So the next time you see those beautiful icicles hanging from your roof, double-check that you don’t have ice dams or leaks in the home too. Check out more tips for preventing a winter disaster here.

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