The icicles hanging from your roof may look pretty, but they could indicate that an ice dam has formed. Learn more about ice dams and implement some easy ice dam prevention tips to stop them from forming.

What are Ice Dams?

Heavy snowfall causes snow to accumulate on your roof. The top layer of snow stays intact when it’s cold outside, but heat from inside the attic melts it from the underside. The melting snow flows toward the eaves, where the chilly outdoor air freezes it. Ice gradually builds up in the gutters and along the eaves, effectively forming a dam. As the process continues, meltwater backs up behind the ice and lingers on your roof much longer than the shingles were designed to handle.

How Can Ice Dams Cause Roof Damage?

Standing water on the roof can lead to many structural and aesthetic problems, including:

  • Loosened shingles
  • Water intrusion
  • Destroyed attic insulation
  • Mold and mildew growth in the attic
  • Rotted attic rafters and joists
  • Siding and soffit deterioration
  • Damaged gutters
  • Water stains on the ceilings and walls

How to Prevent Ice Dams

You can get rid of ice dams by sweeping snow off the roof with a special roof rake or sprinkling calcium chloride or other ice-melting products on the roof. Still, it’s better to prevent ice dams in the first place. The trick is to eliminate heat sources from the attic so the roof remains a cold, even temperature. Here’s what to do:

  • Seal attic floor penetrations—including plumbing, HVAC, and vent pipes—with expanding spray foam.
  • Seal and insulate any ductwork traveling through the attic.
  • Add more attic insulation to create a thermal barrier between your home and the attic. Don’t forget to insulate the hatch as well.
  • Make sure your attic is well-ventilated with soffit vents at the eaves and ridge vents at the peak of the roof. Mechanical ventilation is not required or even recommended because it can lead to moisture problems and cause negative pressure inside the house.
  • Vent your dryer to the exterior, not into the attic. Also, make sure the exhaust locations for these vents pass through exterior walls away from the eaves.
  • Replace outdated recessed light fixtures. You can’t insulate old-style recessed lights without creating a fire hazard. Instead, upgrade to insulated contact (IC) fixtures, which you can safely insulate for energy efficiency and ice dam prevention.
  • Run heated cables on the roof to melt the snow and prevent ice dams from forming. You’ll need to attach clips in a zigzag pattern along the roof before the first snowstorm of the season. Then, flip a switch to heat the shingles and melt the snow as needed.

Ice dam prevention is the key to protecting your property from ice damage this winter. For more useful tips or to request storm damage remediation, please call DKI at 877-533-0210 or contact us online today.