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How to Prevent Ice Dams on Your Roof

How to Prevent Ice Dams on Your Roof

You may have forgotten about the icicles that hung from your gutters and eaves last year. But, winter is soon approaching and along with it comes one of the worst nightmares for your home — ice dams.

What are Ice Dams?

Ice dams are continuous ridges of ice that generally form along your roof’s edge, preventing snow from properly draining off your roof. While they’re frozen, they’re nothing more than typical icicles hanging down from your roof. But, during the warmer time periods of the winter days, the icicles start melting and this melted water pools behind the ice and then starts seeping back under your shingles. Eventually, it starts dripping from your roof into your outside overhangs (soffits), ceilings and walls.

This can wreak havoc on your home. It can leave:

  • Peeling paint
  • Rust spots on drywall fasteners
  • Rot
  • Stains around doors and windows
  • Sagging drywall
  • And more

How Do They Form?

After a heavy snowfall, your attic’s warm air warms the roof and causes the snow to melt. As the water runs down your roof, it then refreezes once it hits the colder edge of the roof and forms a mound of ice. This ice then traps meltwater and this meltwater can seep underneath your shingles, dripping through your roof, into your home, causing the damage mentioned above.

Ice Dams

How to Prevent Ice Dams

You can prevent ice damming by:

1. Removing the Snow From Your Roof

When you don’t have any snow on your roof, there’s nothing to melt. By keeping snow off your roof, it denies ice dams their food that helps them grow — melted snow. So, the best way to prevent ice damming is through snow removal. It’s actually one of the easiest ways to prevent ice dams, but you need to stick with it. You can either go about it yourself by raking the snow off your roof regularly or you can hire a professional to come in and do it for you.

Professional roof snow removal is a better idea if you don’t want to or have the time to remove the snow yourself. Also, professional services is also recommended especially if you’re a snowbird and would rather not return home only to find you had ice damming that damaged your home.

2. Ventilating Your Attic

An effective long-term solution for ice dams is to keep your attic cool and promote ventilation under your roof deck so it stays as cool as possible. You want the underside of your roof deck to be as close to the temperature of your roof’s exterior side as possible. To help with ventilation, you can install soffit and roof vents.

3. Using Heated Deicing Cables

Heated deicing cables inhibit water freeze. You install them along the eave lines. But, they’re only moderately effective and often just back up the issue as they force the ice dams to form higher up your roof. You should also know, they run on electricity and could shorten your roof shingle’s lifespan.

4. Checking Exhausts

Ensure all ducts from kitchens, bathrooms and other living areas exhaust outdoors and not into the attic.

5. Checking Chimney Flashing

Over time, this flashing can crack and become separated from your roof which causes hot air to possibly escape and allow water to come in along the chimney. A roofing professional can check your chimney’s flashing and repair or replace it if necessary.

Taking preventive steps like these above can help stop ice dams and preserve your home’s health. Contact Dominion Roofing for your roof snow removal to help to prevent ice dams.


Does heat tape prevent ice dams?

Heat tape does not completely prevent ice dams. Only the area that is heated will stay free of ice. It will still form along areas that the heat tape has not been laid over. So, heat tape is not the complete solution for preventing ice build-up. However, for some roofs, it can help. An experienced roofer will be able to tell you if it is a good option for your roof.

Does roof raking prevent ice dams?

Roof raking can prevent ice dams. When you remove the snow from your roof it deprives the ice dam of the melting snow that it needs to form and grow. For the best results do it fairly soon after heavy snowfall. Definitely, before the melting and re-freezing process has started.

Can you put ice melt on your roof?

You cannot safely put ice melt on the roof. The chemicals used in de-icing products are strong. They will damage your shingles and other roof components. Some people mix these products with salt and put them into socks and lay them inside their guttering. Whether that will cause damage depends on what material your eavestrough is made from. It is best to call a professional to deal with ice damming.

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