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What Are Ice Dams And How Can I Prevent Them?

Ice dams and snow on roof and gutters
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Winter is fun, and we all (generally) look forward to a nice cup of hot chocolate, cheesy Christmas movies, and gift-giving. Our winter snows can also be beautiful to look at, but it’s not uncommon for them to spell trouble for homeowners in the tri-state area. Ice dams are a nightmare for many and, naturally, it’s better to prevent them than to have to deal with them. With winter on the horizon, it’s important to get your roof ready for the impending inclement weather.

What Are Ice Dams?

An ice dam is a ridge of ice that forms at the edge of a roof and prevents melted snow from draining off. The accumulated backlog of water will inevitably cause damage to the structural integrity of your roof, attic, and home.

Ice dams are caused by non-uniform roof surface temperatures. Warm air from your living space can escape to the attic and warm up your roof. Snow and ice will begin to melt and trickle downwards. However, this water will refreeze once it hits the overhang of your roof, which is not warmed up by any living space underneath. This is the beginning of an ice dam. As the problem continues over time, more snow is melted and trapped along your roof’s overhang. The melted pool of water will sit on your roof, unable to freeze because of heat rising from the house. The water will begin to work its way under the shingles and destroy your roof.

How Can I Prevent Ice Dams?

Once you have an ice dam, it’s best to urgently have experienced, licensed professionals, such as Greene Roofing, restore your roof to full health. Because of the dangerous, icy conditions, we do not recommend homeowners to attempt the job. There are, however, many steps you can take to prevent ice dams from forming in the first place.

Rake Snow Off

Because ice dams are formed by accumulated snow and ice, it’s important to regularly get snow off of your roof. Roof rakes are inexpensive and easy to use. Aim to rake your roof after every six inches of accumulation.

However, the real underlying cause of ice dams is neither snow nor ice. It’s a warm roof, which is caused by poor insulation and venting of the space under your roof.

Check Your Attic Ventilation

Good attic ventilation means that any warm air that gets to your attic will pass outside instead of heating up your roof. Homes with proper attic ventilation are much better off than homes without. However, attic ventilation is still not a foolproof prevention strategy, as heavy snow can block attic vents and prevent warm air from moving outwards.

Upgrade the Insulation of Your Home’s R-Value

Insulate your living space as tightly as possible to prevent heat leakage to your attic, focusing on your attic floor. Insulation is measured by its R-value, which indicates how well a material resists heat. Upping your home’s R-value not only keeps your home warmer and lowers your heating bill, but will help prevent heat from escaping to your attic and affecting your roof. The U.S. Department of Energy recommends a minimum R-value of 49 for the coldest climates.

Extend Your Exhaust Stacks

Many homeowners do not know where the exhaust stacks from their stove and/or bathroom fans lead to. Many times, the hot air is directly funneled into the attic, which is exactly where you don’t want hot air to go. If you find that this is the case in your home, contact a contractor as soon as possible to direct the exhaust stacks well above your roof.

Ice dams can be tricky, which is why your life will be much easier if you take the adequate steps to protect your home and family. Find a professional roofing company in your area, such as Greene Roofing, to address your home’s concerns before this season’s heavy snows kick in.

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