Ice Dams

We get a lot of desperate calls every winter regarding ice dams especially during cold winter days with plunging temperatures at night.  Ice dams occur when there is a thick blanket of snow on the roof that acts as insulation and traps heat that is leaking into your attic from heated spaces below.  This heat eventually starts to melt the bottom of the snow causing water to run down towards the edge of the roof where there is less heat loss causing the water to freeze into ice, especially during cold nights.  As more and more water runs down the ice gets thicker creating a dam that causes water to back up behind the dam, under the shingles and into the house.

If ignored, damage from ice dams can include ruined attic insulation, rotted wood, water damage to ceilings, walls, windows, possible mold growth & more.  So, what is the solution?  It is important to look at a variety of things as none by themselves will completely eliminate ice dams:

Attic insulation:  Proper insulation is an essential first step in keeping heat where it belongs – in your living spaces – and not leaking into the attic.

Air leaks:  Remember, heat loss into the attic is the enemy.  Installing insulated exhaust fan ductwork or replacing recessed lights with recessed housings which are rated to be insulated can reduce heat loss.

Attic Ventilation:  Increasing the amount of ventilation through soffits, gable & ridge vents and up through the peak of the roof lowers the attic temperature and reduces snow melting on the roof.  Even simply adding more roof vents may help.

Eave waterproofing:  If your roof is being replaced you should consider having a waterproof membrane installed under the shingles at the eaves and in the valleys.

Clean Gutters:  Gutters packed with leaves can provide a shelf for ice and snow to build up.  Make sure your gutters are cleaned before winter to help keep any melted snow flowing away from the roof.

– Heat Tape:  When placed near the edge of the roof, in gutters & downspouts, or in roof valleys, heat tape may relieve ice buildup in problem areas.

– Remove snow build-up:  Removing the snow at the edge of the roof with a roof rake may be helpful but this must be done as soon as the snow has accumulated and before ice dam has a chance to begin to form.  Avoid using sharp items such as axes or picks on your roof.  These are likely to cause shingle or structure damage.  FIX’M does not provide roof raking services.

Sometimes, the design of your home cannot allow for complete elimination of ice dams, but addressing the above items can help.  If you have had ice dams in the past you will have them again when conditions are right.

Don’t wait until your roof is covered with snow and ice – it is difficult to do much other than rake snow off the roof in the dead of winter.  A consultation visit before problems occur will include examining all the options available to help keep your home safe from damage.