How to Prevent Ice Dams on Your Roof

Icicles hanging from your eves may make your house look like a hallmark postcard, but they are signs of a more serious problem this winter. Ice dams are a common occurrence in the cold Minnesota winters. They can cause damage not only to the roof and gutters but also compromise the structure of the eves. If ignored they can eventually lead to severe water damage and mold growth.

What Causes Ice Dams On Your Roof?

Ice dams form when warm attic air melts the underside of the snow layer on the roof. As the snow melts, the water trickles down to the eves where the roof stays cold because it extends from the house. Once the water running down the eves reaches the cold part of the roof surface, it freezes, gradually building up a large mound of ice. Often it will extend over the gutters and form icicles. Metal Roofs see this problem more often as metal tends to reflect temperature shifts more easily.

It is important to note the flatter your roof pitch is the easier ice dams can form. Gutters at the eves can also help trap ice and snow on your roof. If too much ice builds up in your gutters, it can provide a foundation for the ice dam to start growing.

How to Prevent Ice Dams on Your Roof

You See Icicles On Your Roof, Now What?

If you have discovered icicles or an ice dam on your roof, it is not too late.

Treating Existing Ice Dams

  • Remove the ice dam using a hammer to break away small chunks of ice until it is completely removed. Do NOT use an ax or sharp tool as you will damage or cut through your shingles. Even if you are careful you can still cause damage to your roof.
  • Clear out gutters and downspouts of all ice. Be aware that leaning a ladder against your gutters in extreme temperatures can cause damage to them.
  • Use a Calcium chloride ice melter to create troughs through the ice to allow water to flow freely. DO NOT use rock salt as it will damage paint, metals, and plants.
  • Hire a professional to come out and take care of your ice dams. Remember climbing on a ladder or the roof when ice and snow are present can be very dangerous.
  • While these are great options if ice dams are already starting to form on your roof. There are a few things you can do to prevent them.

Preventing Ice Dams From Forming

If you have not seen any ice dams forming yet there are some things you can do to help prevent them from forming in the future.

  •  Using a roof rake clear all snow from your roof so it does not collect. BE CAREFUL as you can potentially bury yourself in snow.
  • Ensure your attic access is properly sealed to prevent warm air from your living space to leak into the attic.

While these are great solutions to get through the next winter storm. They are only temporary fixes to preventing ice dams.

Solving Your Warm Roof Woes

To rid your house of this problem you must treat the underlying problem, a warm roof caused by poor ventilation, poor insulation, or a worn roof.

  • Increase attic ventilation to rid your attic of warm air. There are several means to do this but the best method is to create continuous airflow from the soffit to the ridge. This requires proper insulation and a soffit and ridge vent system.
  • These systems include 3 key pieces; soffit vents, ridge vents, and insulated baffles. If a soffit-and-ridge system is not feasible, focus on creating the proper amount of ventilation through other vent methods.
  • Make sure your attic space is properly insulated to prevent heat from the living space leaking into the attic through conduction and convection.
  • Seal all points where warm air leaks from the living space into the attic. This would include attic accesses, bathroom vent fans, dryer vent fans, or stove vents.
  • Seal and Insulate air ducts with proper foil-faced fiberglass insulation to prevent leaks from the HVAC system into the attic space. Ensure that your roof is not excessively worn, or shingles damaged where water could leak below.
  • If creating better ventilation is not an option there are many products on the market to help with the reduction and prevention of ice dams. The most notable is heated cables along the lower part of the roof and Metal ice belt roof panels. Seek a professional for installation.

Remember the best method for treating ice dams on your roof is prevention.

Gold Star Contracting in Minnesota

Gold Star Contracting is proud to have certified contractors who work with homeowners and business owners on a personal level. We do our best to work within your budget and provide an honest estimate for your roof repair or replacement.

If you are concerned that your roof may have issues with ice dams, we can also take care of this for you. Though this article has some do-it-yourself tips, we caution that you use the right equipment and safety measures if you do decide to take on this task yourself.

The best solution is to ensure you have a solid roof system and the tips we mentioned in place, before the snow falls. This way you have a better chance of avoiding the situation entirely.

Let Gold Star Contracting inspect your roof today.

Get a Free In-Home Consultation.