Preventing Ice Dams

by Carmen Corbin on January 25, 2012

Your kids may think that the huge wall of icicles hanging from your roof is awesome, but to you it should serve as a warning sign of an ice dam, which can not only cause damage to your roof, but to the inside of your home as well.  The good news is, there are steps you can take now to prevent ice dam build-up.

What Causes an Ice Dam to Form?

Most ice dams are formed by melted snow that has run down from the upper peak of the roof.  If your attic insulation is substandard or lacking, warm air in the attic melts the roof snow above.  Once the runoff reaches the unheated, cold eaves and gutters, it can refreeze and build up, creating an ice dam.  Unfortunately, any further snow melt is blocked by the dam and forced up under the shingles, where it then finds its way into the interior walls and ceiling of your home (resulting in water damage, mold, mildew – you get the idea).

How to Safely Remove an Ice Dam

It’s important to remove an ice dam as soon as possible before it causes any damage inside or outside.  Because climbing around on a slippery roof can be extremely hazardous, removing it from a ladder is recommended.  Carefully break up the ice with an ice pick, hammer or shovel.  Use caution – you can really damage the shingles (and then you’ll need a roof repair).  Better yet, call a professional roofer to come and take care of it.  They’re specially trained, and some even have steam equipment to clear off the ice.

Ice Dam Prevention

A home improvement or roofing contractor can evaluate your attic insulation and check your soffit vents to determine why ice dams are forming on your home.  Once the attic is properly insulated, that should solve much of the problem.

Metal Roofs: Another option is to have a metal roof installed.  Special coatings enable snowfall to just slide off the roof.  Although the cost is higher than asphalt shingles, metal roofing material lasts longer than shingles – about 30-50 years or more, and can be recycled after replacement.  In summer, the coating is designed to reflect radiant heat, making metal roofs an energy efficient solution as well.

For more information on protecting your home and roof from ice dams, contact your local roofing contractor or home improvement professional.

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