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Winterproofing Tips - Ice Dams

Updated: Nov 17, 2022

During cold winter months, a row of icicles on your home’s eaves may be a sign that a ridge of ice is forming at the edge of the roof. This ridge, also known as an ice dam, can be the result of uneven heat loss from your home, which causes the roof to warm above freezing and melt accumulated snow. When the snow melts and then re-freezes before reaching the roof’s edge, an ice dam forms, causing water to collect behind it. This pool of water can cause extensive damage to the roof, attic, ceilings, walls and contents of your home.

You can prevent the formation of ice dams by following these tips:

  • Keep the attic well ventilated. For suspended ceilings, fiberglass batt insulation can be installed to prevent heat loss. For drywall ceilings that are nailed directly to the joists, blown insulation in addition to fiberglass insulation can be effective.

  • Identify and remove any heat source in your attic that will heat areas on your roof.

  • Seal air leaks to prevent warm air leakage from plumbing vents, attic hatches and junction boxes.

  • Keep the attic floor well insulated (between 1 and 2 feet of insulation) to minimize the amount of heat rising into the attic from below.

  • Clean leaves and other debris from gutters before the first snow to help prevent ice buildup.

  • Install an ice shield under your shingles if you’re considering getting a new roof.

  • Use a roof rake to clear snow about 3 feet above the gutters to allow water to drain freely.

  • Consider hiring an energy specialist to evaluate the performance of your home and recommend some things you can do to minimize energy waste.

  • Consider re-roofing. During the installation process, you can install a secondary moisture barrier to help prevent heat loss. For best results, moisture barriers should be place in roof valleys where snow and ice are likely to collect during the winter.

In addition to the above tips, proper roof maintenance is crucial when it comes to preventing ice dams. Specifically, you should ensure that roof drainage systems, such as scuppers, gutters and down spouts are free of debris and working properly. Be sure to also cut back overhanging trees or vegetation, as falling debris can clog your drainage systems.

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