Ice Dams on Your Roof: What it Means & How to Deal with Them

Many people consider icicles a beautiful thing of winter. However, they could indicate a more serious issue- ice dams. An ice dam is a ridge of ice that forms at the edge of your roof, preventing melting snow from draining off. Ice dams often form following massive snowstorms. 

An ice dam is so much more than an interesting occurrence. In some cases, they weigh hundreds of pounds. This can compromise the eaves of your roof. Additionally, an ice dam can cause water to run under your shingles, where it can get into your attic and ultimately, your home. If you ignore this issue, you can end up with significant damage to your home. 

If you have issues with your roof due to ice dams, call A&J Reliable to inspect your roof and offer you a quote on the work that needs to be done. If you don’t have issues yet, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure- so consider these options for preventing ice dams in the first place. 

What Causes Ice Dams? 

An ice dam forms when snow begins to melt on a warmer area of the roof and flows down to a cooler area, where it freezes. Over time, the ice accumulates, forming a blockage that keeps additional water from draining off the roof. This makes ice and snow removal crucial but it should be done carefully and correctly without damaging the roof further.

Eventually, the ice may back up under the shingles, where it will melt again and end up leaking into your home, causing major damage. In addition, ice dams can get heavy and cause damage to your gutters, even putting people below at risk. 

How to Prevent Ice Dams 

There are several ways to prevent ice dams: 

  • Improve attic ventilation 
  • Add insulation to ceiling in living spaces
  • Eliminate heat sources in attic 
  • Install electric heat cables 

We will look at each of these below. 

Improve attic ventilation 

Typically, homes that have good ventilation in the attic don’t have problems with ice dams because when you circulate the cool outside air in the attic, the surface of the roof remains below freezing, so the snow cannot melt. Though it might conflict with what most people think, a cold attic means you don’t have to worry about ice dams. However, a warm attic is cause for concern. 

Add insulation to ceiling in living spaces

In addition to improving the ventilation in your attic, you’ll want to insulate the ceilings in the living areas below the attic or roof. If your attic is open, you’ll insulate the floor of the attic. If you have a second story, where there is a finished ceiling against the roof, you’ll want to insulate the rafter spaces. This will keep the heat from getting to the roof deck and melting the snow. 

There’s an added benefit to improving insulation: you also save on energy costs. Of course, insulation alone won’t prevent all ice dams. You will need to also improve the ventilation in your attic. 

Eliminate heat sources in attic 

You may have some heat sources in your attic that you haven’t even though about. This typically occurs when older recessed lighting extends into the floor of the attic. This often heats up the air in the attic above freezing, which heats the roof deck, which causes snow to melt. 

Install electric heat cables 

While it’s true that the above methods are ideal for preventing ice dams, if these are not practical, consider installing electric heat cables along your roofline and gutters. This allows the melting snow to flow straight to the ground instead of freezing on the edge of your roof. 

Dealing with Ice Dams 

If you want to employ some of these preventative measures for ice dams, it’s best to do so in the warmer months: fall, spring, or summer. However, you can combat them during the winter by doing the following: 

  • Keep gutters clean 
  • Use a roof rake following a heavy snowfall
  • Use calcium chloride or other ice-melt product 
  • Chip off ice

Of course, if the ice dam buildup is too much for you to handle, you can call the professionals at A&J Reliable to help. They have the knowledge and the equipment to handle your roofing problems any time of the year.