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Field Guide for Avoiding Ice Dams this Winter

Field Guide for Avoiding Ice Dams this Winter

Every winter, ice dams take their toll on houses all across America. They ruin roofs, walls, and can create a massive mess for homeowners. Understanding the components of ice dams will help you take the right steps for preventing them from happening.

How do Ice Dams Form?

Ice dams form when snow or ice melts on your roof, drips to the edge of the roof, then refreezes. This results in having a thick ridge of ice along the edge of your roof near your gutters. Ice dams are also occasionally found near skylights and vents as well.

The issue with ice dams is that when these pretty looking icicles melt, instead of draining into your gutters, like they should, they find alternative routes into the walls of your house. As you can imagine, water dripping down the inside of your walls can quickly lead to expensive unwanted repairs.

How do I know if my House is at Risk?

Now, this isn’t 100% fool proof. We can’t control Mother Nature. However, we can do these few things to better equip your home before something like this starts.

  1. The name of the game for preventing ice dams is proper ventilation. Soffit vents under the eaves of your roof keep air flowing through your attic. Soffit vents should always be clear and unobstructed, especially during winter.
  2. The problem with snow melting from the heat within the house is that the snow melts from below. In order to make sure it doesn’t, let your roof get plenty of sunlight. This helps the snow melt naturally from top to bottom, not bottom to top. To get more sunlight, have a professional remove the limbs and branches that are preventing the sun from hitting your roof.
  3. Make sure you properly seal common places where warm air escapes. This means having the right insulation for attic hatches, vent pipes, and exhaust fans.
  4. Make sure your attic is insulated properly. This will prevent the snow from excessively melting on your roof. A good rule of thumb is to keep your attic cool – about 10 degrees colder than the outside air.

How can I prevent ice dams?

Even if you have proper ventilation there are a few products that you can use to help prevent ice dams.

  1. As the snow falls, remove the snow from 3 feet back from the edge of the roof. We don’t recommend doing this while standing on the roof because it’s too dangerous getting close to the edge. Do your best to remove your roof’s snow from the ground using an elongated tool. Make sure to use specific snow removal tools because you don’t want to ruin your roof’s shingles.
  2. You can install heated cables into the eaves if your roof. However, have a professional do this because you don’t want to intensify the rate at which the ice melts.
  3. A good option is installing snow and ice slides during the off-season. These slides are placed on top of your shingles and prevent ice from coming in contact with your roof, gutters, and eaves.

As you can see, ice dams are not fun. Taking the right precautions will possibly help save your house from further damage. Finally, if you do see ice dams forming, please contact your local professional to have them remove the snow and ice for you.

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