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Tips for Preventing Ice Dams from Forming on Your Roof

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When temperatures plummet and snow starts falling, remember to look up and check your roof for ice. Ice dams are accumulations of ice on the edge of the roof and they mean BIG trouble for you and your home.

Ice dams result in water seepage, which can rot roofs, destroy insulation, and ruin gutters.

In poorly insulated homes, warm air escapes through the ceiling and into the attic. If ventilation inside the attic is also inadequate, all that warm air has nowhere to go. The roof’s temperature starts to creep up higher than the outdoors air temperature, causing accumulated snow on the roof to begin melting.

  • The only way to permanently eradicate ice dams is not to warm your roof up but to actually cool it down with better insulation and attic ventilation. Any other strategy will provide only a temporary fix at best.
  • Attic insulation should be at least 12” deep. Make sure it is installed correctly, without any gaps between sections, and in conjunction with a vapor barrier.
  • Also, check around light fixtures, chimneys, bathroom fans, and anywhere else heat might escape upwards. If you discover small holes, seal them up with caulk, spray foam, or weather stripping.
  • Evaluate your attic’s ventilation system. Are there adequate inlet and outlet vents? If not, look into installing a continuous soffit and ridge ventilation system.
  • If you already have a ice damage, your best strategy is to sit tight and wait for the ice to melt away. Later you should focus on preventing future dams by making the improvements described above
  • If you really, truly cannot stand just waiting until it melts on its own, cut the legs of of a pair of pantyhose, fill with calcium chloride ice melter and lie them down the slope of the roof so that each leg crosses a section of ice and the toes dangle over the edge of the gutter. This should melt small channels in the ice, allowing runoff to occur.

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