How to Prevent Ice Dams

It’s a well known fact that the snow and cold that accompany a Buffalo winter can cause a multitude of problems for homeowners. Once such problem is ice dams. Left untreated, these large ice patches can cause major damage to roofs and ceilings. Fortunately, there are several steps you can take to ready your home for the upcoming winter and prevent ice dams altogether. 

How Do Ice Dams Form?

Ice dams are large chunks of ice that form along the edges of your roof. During the winter, your roof can get warm enough to melt the bottom layer of snow. This water will trickle down your roof until it reaches an overhang. Since there is no heat coming from below the overhang, the water will freeze there, causing a buildup of ice. Even with just one to two inches of snow present, ice dams can form. 

When the ice is frozen solid, it won’t cause any more problems than icicles along your gutters would. But during warmer parts of the day, the ice can melt. The runoff from the ice dam can pool on your roof, seep into your shingles, and will eventually end up inside your home, damaging your ceilings and walls. This can cost thousands of dollars to repair. The key is to be sure you take steps to prevent this kind of ice build up in the first place. 

Keeping Your Roof Colder 

The main culprit behind ice dams is a roof that is too warm. This can happen for several reasons, and there are steps that can be taken to remedy the situation. 

Attic Insulation: A poorly insulated attic allows heat from your home to end up in the space below your roof, warming it. Adding insulation to the floor of your attic will keep more heat inside your home and lower the risk of an ice dam forming. It’s recommended that homes have insulation of at least R-38 in the ceiling, which amounts to about twelve inches of cellulose or fiberglass. 

Ventilation: Properly venting your attic will allow warmer air to escape outside and pull cooler air in, thereby preventing your roof from getting warmer. There are two primary locations where vents are typically installed to promote air circulation: the soffit and the ridge. The soffit is the area underneath the roof’s eave, and the ridge is the roof’s peak. Installing vents in both locations is the best way to ensure cool air can circulate freely in your attic.

Seal Gaps: Even with insulation in the attic, there are still other places in most homes that allow heat to transfer from the living space up towards the roof. These locations can include, but are not limited to:

  • Recessed light fixtures
  • Bathroom exhaust fans
  • Chimneys
  • Electrical and plumbing lines

If any of these are present in your attic, they should be properly sealed and insulated. Even very small holes or gaps left by one of these fixtures can seriously contribute to allowing warm air to leak into into the attic. 

What If I Already Have an Ice Dam?

If you’ve already seen the signs of a problematic ice dam forming on your roof, it should be removed right away to prevent problems. It’s best not to attempt the removal of an ice dam yourself, as climbing on an icy roof can be extremely dangerous. In this case, you should call a professional. Stockmohr can remove the ice dam from your home for you before it causes any damage, and you can rest assured your roof will look as good as new when the snow melts.