What Are Ice Dams? How Do You Prevent Them From Damaging Your Roof?

What are ice dams?

When snow accumulation on your roof is warmed by heat from within your home some of the snow melts and the water runs to your roof’s edge where it refreezes beneath the snow and forms a thin layer of ice. As the snow continues to thaw and freeze, ice builds and creates a dam—you may notice icicles hanging from your roofline. While they may look pleasing to the eye, they can be quite harmful to your roof.

How are they harmful?

Over time ice dams can expand to a point where they prevent water from running off your roof, and they can cause a pool of water to form. As the dams continue to enlarge themselves they can push water beneath your roof’s shingles where it can work its way into your attic, or down the walls of your house.

What can you do to prevent them?

One way to help prevent ice dams is to use a snow rake to remove heavy snow accumulation from your roof. Be sure to get a snow rake that has wheels because they keep the rake’s blade above your roofing material to minimize scraping. When using a snow rake be careful to avoid areas where power lines connect to your home. You may opt to have a licensed pro perform this job for you.

Another way to mitigate ice dams is to have a professional install heating cables on your eaves, gutters, and downspouts—or around roof drains if you have a flat roof. Although these cables won’t remove ice dams, they will establish channels for water to drain off.

Other ways to fend off ice dams include making sure your attic is properly ventilated so that heat can escape and not warm your roof, and properly insulating the attic to prevent the transfer of heat to the roof.

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