Roof Ice Dams: What Causes Them & How To Stop Them!

Roof Ice Dams: What Causes Them & How To Stop Them!

Many people find the icicles forming along the roof eaves of a house to be a pretty sight, but the reality is that these might be a precursor to something more destructive – roof ice dams. The same conditions that lead to icicle formation might lead to thick ridges of ice that can loosen roof shingles, tear off your gutters, or cause water to get backed up into your home.

Water seepage in your home can cause mildew, mold, warped floors, stained ceilings, sagging ceilings, peeling paint, and more complications. If you own a commercial or residential property and want to learn how to prevent and deal with roof ice dams, read on, and we’ll get right into it.

How Do Roof Ice Dams Form?

This problem starts when heat gathers in your property’s attic, warming up all parts of the roof except the eaves. Next, accumulated snow on the roof will begin to melt but freeze again once it gets to the still-cold eaves. 

Finally, the freezing ice along the eaves grows to the point where melting water can no longer flow off the roof due to the blockage, thus backing up under your shingles and into your home. This blockage is what we refer to as an ice dam.

How to Prevent Ice Dam Formation

The good news for homeowners here is that there are effective ways of preventing ice dam formation permanently as long as you make an effort early on. There are various trouble spots you can target and methods you can implement to achieve ice-dam-free roofing, including:

Ventilate Your Roof Ridges and Eaves

Ridge vents combined with continued soffit vents will help circulate air underneath your roof. Ensure that at least one square foot of opening is available for every three hundred square feet of attic flooring for effective results.

Install Effective Insulation

The insulation in your attic can go a long way in preventing roof ice dams and other problems during the cold season. Properly insulating your attic and ensuring that all the ducts and seals are reinforced (fiberglass works wonderfully here), you can keep all the heat where it’s supposed to be. 

You will prevent ice dam formation while preventing heat loss, leading to higher heating costs. 

Eliminate Unnecessary Heat Sources

You might have fixtures and appliances in your attic that might inadvertently contribute to the problem you’re facing. Common culprits include old light fixtures such as older can lights that extend into attic floors and can radiate a surprising amount of heat. 

They can be especially troublesome in spaces with poor ventilation as they can raise the air temperature much faster. Uninsulated HVAC ducts, kitchen exhaust fans, clothes dryer vents, and appliance outlets are also common problem areas.

Installing Electric Heated Cables

Heated cables can be clipped to heat the roof’s eave edge. They will then equalize the inside and outside temperatures, thus preventing ice dam formation. They should be placed in a zig-zag pattern by certified professionals for best performance and installed well before the cold season sets in. 

How to Get Rid of Ice Dams

While prevention is always better than cure, it’s not always possible to prevent the formation of roof ice dams on your property, so you might need to figure out how to get rid of it once it has formed. Effective methods include:

Rake Away the Ice

While standing on the ground, you can use a long-handled rake or other similar tools to physically pull ice off your roof. Doing this will expose the ice dam to the elements, allowing it to melt away in many cases by helping change the temperature on your roof.

The downside of this method is the potential damage that rakes can do to your roof’s shingles. It is not often possible to remove ice from shingles without damaging them. Even taking some of the granules from the tops of the shingles can significantly reduce the lifespan of your roof.

Do NOT Apply Ice-Melting Products

Ice-melt or de-icers alter the chemical composition of water, thus lowering their freezing points and making it harder for roof ice dams to form. Calcium chloride is one such substance. While it may seem like an easy & cheap solution, do not attempt putting these products on your roof! These products can quickly damage your roof, which will be much more costly in the long run!  

Final Thoughts

Because we can’t wish away the cold season, we have to deal with it however we can, and roof ice dams are a part of it. Implementing the techniques and precautions mentioned here will make your winter season more comfortable and trouble-free and minimize your total energy costs. 

Many interventions will require expert assistance to carry out properly, so don’t hesitate to call in the professionals. If you’re in the Grand Rapids, Michigan, area, make Moore and Sons Roofing your first choice. Call us today!

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