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How to: Prevent Ice Dams

Posted on December 2, 2016 by Advance Companies

The possibility of ice dams forming on your roof is much greater than we’d like it to be as homeowners. The last thing we need in our home during the bitter cold days of winter is watering seeping into our walls from the roof and having a potentially very expensive disaster. Here’s a how to guide on preventing ice dams. At the end, we’ll give you some tips if ice dams have already formed.

What is an Ice Dam?

An ice dam is a ridge of ice that forms at the edge of a roof, preventing proper drainage of melted snow and ice. The resulting water–having nowhere to go–can seep into walls and cause water and mold damage.

Insulate the Roof

The key to preventing ice dams is maintaining a very cold roof. Ice dams often form when melted ice moves down the roof and refreezes at the edge, forming an ice ridge that prevents melted snow and water from running off the roof through proper drainage channels.

Check the Attic

According to the family handyman, the average home loses one third of it’s heat through the attic. That’s a lot of heat. Most of that heat loss escapes through unblocked walls, cracks around light fixtures, plumbing, chimneys, gaps in drywall, and ceiling hatches. The only way to prevent this is to close up attic bypasses. Do this by raking and pulling pack insulation and filling holes and gaps with foams or caulking. Remember to wear a long sleeve shirt, a dust mask, and long pants to protect yourself from irritation caused by insulation.

Measure Insulation Levels

Next on your list should be to measure attic insulation levels. Building codes generally require between 12 to 14 inches of insulation. Measure yours. If it’s less than 8, you should install enough to get it back up to 12 or more. We suggest you hire a professional, as the cost of insulation can be expensive, and you won’t save much doing it yourself.

Install Roof and Soffit Vents

Proper attic ventilation will draw in cool air an push out warm air, keeping your attic and roof cooler. This, in addition to following the above two steps will likely prevent the formation of ice dams. The minimum ventilation area should be 1 sq. ft. of vent per 300 sq. ft. of roof surface area. This is the minimum. More is always better- you’r attic isn’t likely to be over ventilated.

Alternate Option

Some houses have angled ceilings and no attic, making it difficult to insulate and add vents. For these homes, we suggest the following:

Get a Snow Rake

Rake the snow off your roof after a heavy snowfall. A snow rake, which is an aluminum scraper mounted at a right angle on a telescoping aluminum pole, is the simplest solution for occasional heavy snows. If you pull the snow down, it can’t melt and form an ice dam.

Install Heat Cables

For those pesky areas where a rake cannot reach or ice dams often form, install heat cables. Heat cables are high resistance wires forming a zig zag pattern. They melt snow and ice. Make sure to run a cable inside a downspout so it doesn’t freeze up and block drainage.

There you have it! Ice dams are annoying, and can be a real problem. Use these tips to keep your roof cool and have less stress this winter. If your roof or home is damaged by an ice dam, give us a call. Our highly experienced crew will be at your home day or night to start on repairs. Just visit our contact us page to get started.

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