How To Prevent Ice Damming

During Winter and into Spring we receive lots of calls from homeowners dealing with water damage saturating drywall at the top of exterior walls or dripping down doors and windows.  Sometimes it’s truly a failing roof requiring replacement, sometimes it’s an improperly installed flashing and gutter, but many times it’s a matter of ice dams forming due to improper attic ventilation and insulation.

What Are Ice Dams?

Ice dams form when the warm underside of your roof/attic melts the bottom layer of snow on the roof, causing water to run down to the overhangs where it re-freezes and builds up ice, blocking water flow off the shingles.  Too much ice, and water will back up underneath the shingles, allowing water to seep underneath and enter your home.

How To Tell When Ice Dams Are Forming

Most of the time it’s easy to spot ice dams forming on the edge of your roof.  Some common signs are bulges of snow on the overhang or icicles develop.  During wet winters it can be more difficult to spot, as snow builds up

Dealing with Ice Dams

There are many ways to deal with ice dams, but none of them should include climbing on a slippery ladder or roof.  Some simple solutions are to get ice melt onto the roof right behind the ice dam.  While you can use something like pantyhose or cheesecloth, we prefer something a little more biodegradable.  Thin paper bags work great for this, as they deteriorate quickly to release the melt and depending on how thin they are, will be gone entirely in no time.  Don’t feel the need to over-do it on ice melt either.  You can always add more, but remember whatever you put on your roof will end up down your downspouts and could damage your landscaping if used too excessively.

Preventing Ice Dams From Forming

The common culprits for ice dams forming are too little roof/attic ventilation, and poor/inefficient insulation.  Make sure you’re sealing the living space from the attic.  This includes any gaps used for cabling, conduit, or pipes in the walls as well as proper R-value for your region.  We came across a great video from our friends at “This Old House” that provides an excellent example of ice damming, recovery and prevention tactics discussed in this post.  Please take a look, then if you’re in the Chicagoland area, give us a call or fill out a Web form if your in need of roof repair or re-roof.

Watch the video here

Prevent Ice Damming Video