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5 Tips for Preventing Ice Dams on Roof

Posted by Kevin Leahy on January 02, 2023

Winters are tough our own homes, especially the roof. A really bad winter can do a lot of damage to the roof and if you have an old roof and old gutter system it might not hold up against the onslaught of ice and snow and you’ll start to experience water damage in the home or worse the roof collapsing.

Here are 5 tips for preventing ice dams on roof:

What You Need to Know About Ice Dams

First of all you should know as much as you can about dams. Ice dams are chunks of ice that form along the side of the roof. While it stays cold, the icicles don’t really harm the roof in any way, but once the weather warms up a little, they will melt into pools of water on the roof that eventually seep under the shingles and into the walls and ceilings. First you will see damp spots and then paint will start to peel and the drywall will start to sag and rot.

This most commonly occurs when a part of your roof heats up to above freezing, but the edge of the roof is still below freezing. Often this occurs when you have a warm attic. The heat escapes from the ceiling of the attic and warms parts of the roof but if the edge of the roof is still frozen ice will build up there when meltwater runs down and hits the cold spot creating an ice dam on the roof.

Prevent the Ice Dam in the First Place

The best way to keep ice dams from forming in the first place is to keep your attic and roof cold. The best way to do this is by:

  • Fill in potential leaks. Most homes experience heat loss from the attic and it comes from unblocked walls, gaps in drywall and cracks, especially around light fixtures. Luckily this is something you can fix on your own, but because it requires some climbing and some air leaks are difficult to reach, you might want to hire a professional. If you are going to do it yourself, you should wear a mask for the dust as well as a long-sleeved shirt and pants for protection from skin irritations from the insulation. An added bonus is that you will save energy and on heating and air conditioning bills.
  • Make sure you have enough attic insulation to protect against ice dams. According to the experts, building codes require about 12 to 14 inches of fiberglass or cellulose. Measure the level in your attic and if you have less than 8 inches and find yourself having ice dam problems a lot, then you should add more insulation.
  • You should also make sure you have roof and soffit vents to draw in the cold outdoor air and push out the warmer air in the attic to keep both the attic and roof cold. Experts recommend that the minimum ventilation area size should be at least about 1 square feet of vent per 300 square feet of ceiling area when half the vent area is low on the roof and half is high. This can get complicated and some roof types are more difficult to vent so it is a good idea to hire a professional to do it for you.

When a Cold Roof Is Not Enough

Unfortunately a cold roof is not enough prevent the ice dams and subsequent water damage. Other strategies that might help include using an aluminum snow rake to get the snow off your roof after a heavy snowfall. This only works for single story homes though. You can also consider running a special adhesive ice-and-water barrier from 3 to 6 ft. up on the roof. This is a major undertaking though and best done when you are re-roofing any way. Never use a snow rake while you are on a ladder.

Another option is to install heat cables on the roof edge in a zigzag pattern in the areas where you see ice dams form the most. You need to be careful though with the extra meltwater. It can refreeze n the gutters and along the roof edge. To be safe, put the heat cable inside the downspout so it doesn’t clog with ice.

What to Do When You Already Have an Ice Dam

If you are already have an ice dam on your roof, don’t worry. There are ways to deal with it. Remember it is not the dams that are the problem, but the leaks that can come after. If you don’t have any weak areas where leaks may happen then you might be good for now and then before the next winter you use some prevention strategies.

When you do have water damage in your home and can’t rake the snow off the roof, you should hire a roofing company to take care of it. They can use a streamer to steam the ice off. Don’t try to chip it off yourself, you will only damage the shingles.

The Conditions of Your Gutters Matter Too

A clogged gutters can also cause roof problems and water damage. Using TheSpoutOff system can help. TheSpoutOff are rain gutter outlets that can be easily added to a new gutter system and they are designed with larger openings which prevent leaves and debris from getting clogged up in the gutters. They also make it easier to check on your gutters because it comes with a removable downspout that allows you to inspect the system from the ground instead of having to climb a ladder.

Another great plus is that these outlets are easy to keep clean through the removable downspout that allows you to check on the outlets without having to climb a ladder. With TheSpoutOff, a fear of heights or balance concerns will no longer keep you from properly taking care of your home and it is a lot cheaper than hiring a professional cleaner to come regularly to clear out all the debris.

The SpoutOff can be retrofitted to your current gutter system or it can be added to a new one, depending upon your needs. The instructions are relatively easy to follow so it is something you can easily install yourself, but any local gutter company can do it for you as well. Never have a clogged gutter again.

For more information on preventing ice dams on roof or dealing with a clogged gutter, contact The SpoutOff today.

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