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Ice Dams: Cause, Care and Prevention of Roof Ice Dams


Ice dams are one of the most common and damaging winter roof problems. If you live in a region where large amounts of snowfall is common, then you need to know how to prevent ice dams from forming on your roof. Heavy snowfall, along with cold temperatures can ultimately result in a roof leak. The cold temperatures after a snowfall prevent the snow from melting and could cause leaks. Even if you have a strong and well maintained roof, snow that remains on a roof for an extended amount of time can lead to leaks. However, more common than roof leaks are roof ice dams.

What are Ice Dams?
An ice dam is a wall of ice, or a row of icicles, which form at the edge of the roof, right at the gutters and overhang. Ice dams are dangerous because they are sharp and heavy and could fall on and injure anyone near them. Ice dams form when the snow drips from a slanted roof and then freezes. The melted snow flows down the roof, under the snow, and then onto the eaves and into the gutters. Once the melted snow reaches the overhang and gutters, which are much colder, the water quickly turns into ice all along the overhang.

What Causes Ice Dams?
Ice dams are most often caused by poor attic insulation and poor attic and roof ventilation. Poor attic insulation results in a significant amount of heat leaving your home through the attic and roof. The heat makes the snow melt at a fast rate and causes ice dams. The fast melting snow becomes trapped under the heavy snow which causes leaks.

How to Prevent Ice Dams

  • Before winter, make sure you have proper levels of roof insulation and enough vents installed. You should also check that the attic insulation is not blocking the roof ventilation. Proper levels of insulation are the best defense against ice dams.
  • Seal air leaks in your attic in order to prevent warm air leakage.
  • Clean out your gutters before winter to remove any leaves or debris.
What to Do if You Have Ice Dams
  • Never attempt to go up on an icy or snowy roof.
  • Do not attempt to remove ice dams unless you have experience. You could seriously injure yourself if you are not skilled at removing ice dams.
  • Remove large amounts of snow with a roof rake or find a professional to remove the snow for you. The safest way to remove the snow is to pull the snow down the slope of the roof line. Do not pull snow across the roof as it could break off the shingles.
  • Consider chipping away at some of the ice buildup in the gutters.

 


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