With the crazy weather happening in the Midwest this winter, most homeowners have noticed massive areas of ice growing on their eaves and gutters. This is what we call an ice dam – or a thick band of ice that forms along the edge of a roof, preventing water and melting snow from draining properly. The issue with ice dams is that they can cause leaks on exterior walls and are not recommended to be physically removed after they form.
How Does an Ice Dam Form?
The best remedy for ice dams is to try and prevent them from happening in the first place. There are a couple different reasons why they form, and this can help us identify why they’re building up on your roof.
- Improper Attic Ventilation and Insulation – When an attic isn’t properly insulated or ventilated, hot air gets trapped. This trapped air radiates heat through your roof causes the snow on your roof to melt. However, as this runs off the pitch of your roof, it meets the eaves. Since the eaves of your roof hang over the building, there is no heat from the attic to keep the snow in a liquid form. This water then freezes into ice and hardens in a band of ice and icicles along your eaves and getters.
- Extreme Winter Weather – The winter weather plays a major factor in whether homeowners are going to have issues with ice dams. When winter days are just above freezing but nights get cold, there is a cycle of thawing and freezing snow on your roof that results in a buildup of ice. This can also be aggravated by things such as long periods of freezing rain, which we have seen a lot of in the Midwest this winter.
- Flat Roofing – Since flat roofs drain water a lot less effectively, they are more prone to this buildup of ice.
- Snow Piles – Winters with extreme snow storms are a big factor contributing for ice dam formation. Combined with other factors, you may not even be able to see the water melting on the surface of the shingles and can build up without knowing it.
However, it is important to remember that no matter how well your attic is insulated, heat leakage can still occur and aid in the build-up of ice dams.
How Do I Prevent Ice Dams?
The best time to think about ice dams is when the weather is warm, and the roof is easily accessible. However, there are a few different ways to help prevent them.
- Roof Rakes – During the winter, the only way to help prevent ice dams after it has snowed is to use a roof rake. A roof rake is a flat shovel on a long pole that allows you to pull snow off your roof while safely on the ground. This works best right after a snow fall, when it is still light and hasn’t had a chance to solidify. By doing this you can help prevent the snow from melting and re-freezing on the gutters.
- Improve Attic Insulation & Ventilation – The most common issue on homes with ice dams is improper attic insulation and ventilation. This means your attic should be inspected for any gaps or improperly installed insulation that allows warm air to reach the roof. And improper ventilation system is often a more complicated repair. This could include installing more vents or replacing existing ones. Some homes may benefit from installing a new ridge vent as well.
It is important to remember that ice dams are something that cannot be completely prevented. We especially advise caution in inspecting ice dams. If you’re experiencing ice dams and want to help prevent them next winter, call My-Pros for a free estimate and attic inspection.
My-Pros operates throughout the Northern Illinois and Southern Wisconsin region, in cities like Rockford, Machesney Park, Belvidere, and Beloit. Give us a call at 1-815-927-6400 or click here to schedule a free estimate!