Ways To Prevent Ice Dams On Your Roof
Ice dams are those beautiful but deadly mounds of ice and icicles that you see along the edge of some roofs. We say they are deadly because sheets of ice start to break loose as the weather gets a little warmer, stabbing or crushing anything in its path. They can also cause considerable roof leaks that lead to interior damage. Preventing ice dams is a good idea if you live in our state.
Winter is hitting Lancaster and Chester County full force right now, so protecting your roof from ice dams is an important consideration. To understand the best way to prevent them, understand why they happen in the first place.
Permanent Fixes For Ice Dams
Getting rid of ice dams for good is simple, in principle: Just keep the entire roof the same temperature as the eaves. You do that by increasing ventilation, adding insulation, and sealing off every possible air leak that might warm the underside of the roof.
Option : Attack The Snow
One way to get in front of potential ice dams is to remove the snow that causes them before it has a chance to melt. This does not involve climbing onto a snow and ice-covered roof and putting yourself at risk! Instead, use a tool designed to remove the snow from the safety of the ground. There are a number of these devices available, usually called handled roof rakes or roof shovels. Look for a model that uses a protective buffer to prevent damage to the shingles while removing bulk quantities of snow. And a telescoping handle is a mustthe entire idea is to limit risk, not force you to climb onto a ladder or roof in inclement weather.
Obviously this snow removal tool has its limitations. It works best when theres enough snow to get a hold of, but not so much that it becomes unwieldy. Also, the height of your home and profile of your roof will have to be taken into consideration.
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What Causes Different Roof Surface Temperatures
Since most ice dams form at the edge of the roof, there must be a heat source warming the roof elsewhere. This heat primarily comes from the house. In rare instances, increased heat from the sun may cause these temperature differences.
It is primarily heat flowing from the house that causes the nonuniform temperatures of the roof surface leading to ice dams.
Heat from the house travels to the roof surface in three ways: conduction, convection and radiation.
- Conduction is heat energy traveling through a solid. A good example of this is the heating of a cast iron frying pan. The heat moves from the bottom of the pan to the handle by conduction.
- If you put your hand above the frying pan, heat will reach it by the other two methods. The air right above the frying pan is heated and rises. The rising air carries heat/energy to your hand. This is heat transfer by convection.
- Heat also transfers from the hot pan to your hand by electromagnetic waves and this is called radiation. Another example of radiation is to stand outside on a bright sunny day and feel the heat from the sun. This heat transfers from the sun to you by radiation.
In a house, heat moves through the ceiling and insulation by conduction through the slanted portion of the ceiling. In many homes, there is little space in regions like this for insulation, so it is important to use insulation with high R-value per inch to reduce heat loss by conduction.
Preventing Ice Dams With Ventilation
Houses with good attic ventilation generally do not experience ice dams, and the physics are quite simple: By circulating cool outside air in the attic space , the roof surface remains below freezing and cannot melt the snow on the roof. Although it’s contrary to what many people believe, a cold attic actually means no ice dams, while a warm attic means “homeowner beware.”
There are several means of improving attic ventilation:
- Where the spaces between rafters are insulated, you can create a continuous airflow from the soffit to the peak of the roof. A soffit-and-ridge vent system usually requires insulation baffles installed at the lower side of the roof, above the exterior walls. The baffles hold back the insulation by 1 to 2 inches, creating a channel for air to flow freely past the insulation. Without them, thick insulation can block the air coming in through the soffit vents, eliminating airflow. These insulation baffles must be combined with a ridge vent that allows air flowing up through the baffles a continuous path to outdoor air.
- If a soffit-and-ridge system is not feasible or desirable, ventilation can be provided with soffit or gable vents for intake air and several conventional roof vents for exhaust air. As a general guideline, ventilation systems should provide 1 square foot of net free ventilation per 150 square feet of attic floor space. Net free ventilation is the total area of openings in a vent, minus all screening or other obstructions.
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Need Help With Your Ice Dams
Ice dams should always be removed by professionals who understand winter roof safety and how to protect the shingles from further damage. Plus, once they have removed your current ice dam, they will need to address the underlying cause before another ice dam occurs. If you need to reach out to a professional, consider IKOs Contractor Locator, which may suggest roofers right in your area.
Prevent Ice Dams With Rhino Steel Buildings
If you live in a climate where ice dams are common, consider a RHINO Steel building. Steel buildings typically do not have eave overhangs, so ice dams are far less likely to form. In addition, the slicker metal roofing on a steel building sheds ice, water, and snow more easily, so it is less prone to form ice dams.
RHINO steel buildings meet or exceed all snow loads, wind loads, and local building codes for the lifetime of the structure guaranteed. In addition, RHINOs extra thick Pro-Value Insulation system keeps warm air inside, rather than letting it radiate through the roof.
Call RHINO today at to learn about designing a metal building that prevents ice dams and meets all of your other building needs.
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Whats An Ice Dam And How Does It Form
An ice dam is a lump of ice that usually forms at the edge of a sloped roof, preventing melted water from passing over the roof edge. When the ice dams block water from draining, they can find their way through the roof shingles and cause ice dam leaks.
So, how can you spot an ice dam causing a roof leak?
Ice dams are easy to spot. When an ice dam forms, youll see giant icicles hanging on the roofs eaves. The icicles might look pretty, but they pose significant risks to gutters and downspouts. They can also loosen shingles and allow water to leak into the house.
When you notice icicles overhanging along the edges of your homes roof, you need to take immediate action. But before you do that, its essential to understand how ice dams form. That will help you tackle the issue from the source.
So, how do ice dams form?
Generally, ice dams form when snow on the roof melts and refreezes along the roofs eaves. When the roof covering the attic space gets warm, the snow lump accumulating on the roof will melt from below. The melted water will trickle down between the shingles and underside of the snow hump on the roof until it reaches the roofs eaves.
When the melted water reaches the eaves, it gets exposed to the cold air and starts to re-freeze as it trickles to the ground. As a result, it forms overhanging pieces of ice known as icicles.
Effective Ice Dam Prevention Products
- Calcium Chloride Ice Melt Use ice melt as a filler in pantyhose positioned along ice dam areas. You can also toss the tablets up on the roof, but its more efficient to climb a ladder and spread them along eaves. Be sure to use calcium chloride ice melt specifically formulated for safe rooftop use.
- Ice Belts These thin aluminum panels are installed along the roof line to help eaves shed snow, but how well do ice belts work? Theyre best for protecting limited areas because they can develop ice dams above the top of panel edging.
- Heat Cables Available at home improvement centers, roof heating cables usually come in 100-foot lengths. Installation can be a DIY project , but you might feel more comfortable hiring an electrician. Keep in mind that heat cables add to your monthly winter electric bill.
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How To Prevent Ice From Reforming
The installation of heated wires prevents the formation of ice, while allowing the evacuation of water. In addition, if ice builds up due to poor insulation, the issue can be resolved by properly reinsulating the problem areas.
While it might be tempting to save a few dollars by de-icing your roof yourself, it is always preferable to ask help from specialists in the field. Whether you live in Anjou, St-Leonard, Montreal East or elsewhere, call upon qualified roofers that know of to rectify the situation in no time!
Preventing Ice Dams With Electric Heat Cable
Improving ventilation and reducing heat sources against the inside roof surface are the best ways to prevent ice dams, but if these methods aren’t practical, then it is possible to install electric heat cable along the edge of the roofline and gutters.
When looped in a zig-zag pattern along the edge of the roof, heat cable will prevent the melting water from cooling enough to freeze when it reaches the eaves. Instead of freezing, the meltwater flows harmlessly to the ground.
Heat cable is rather unattractive on a roof, but it does serve to prevent ice dams when installed properly. But be aware that mixing water and electricity always comes with risks. Make sure to follow the manufacturer’s directions precisely, and maintain the heat cable properly to ensure that it remains safe.
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How To Get Rid Of Ice Dams
Icicles may be pretty but they can tear off gutters, loosen shingles, and cause water to back up into your house. Learn these fast fixes for ice dam removal, long term repair, and prevention tips.
Icicles hanging along the eaves of your house may look beautiful, but they spell trouble. That’s because the same conditions that allow icicles to formsnow-covered roofs and freezing weatheralso lead to ice dams: thick ridges of solid ice that build up along the eaves.
Pro2Pro Tip: To keep ahead of ice dam damage, snap photos where you see frosty buildup. Use the pictures to help target an interior inspection, during which you should check for leaks.
Hire An Energy Professional
Weatherization contractors are professionals who can deal with the heat transfer problem that creates ice dams.
- The contractor you hire should conduct a blower door test to evaluate how airtight your ceiling is. They also may use an infrared camera to find places in the ceiling where there is excessive heat loss.
- Do not repair interior damage until ceilings and walls are dry.
- Interior repair should be done together with correcting the heat loss problem that created the ice dam or the damage will occur again.
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What If I Ignore The Ice Dams On My Roof
Ignoring the ice dams on your roof is a good way to ensure your roofer will have more business. Sometimes your drywaller and flooring person too. While not all ice dams will result in major damage, many of them do. You might notice leaks in your home right away, or you might not think anything of it until you get a leak from a hard rain years later. But ice dams are bad for your roof and gutters. Preventing them or fixing issues they cause is a part of keeping your home maintained, which makes homeownership costs lower and satisfaction higher.
How Not To Remove Ice Dams
There are many incorrect ways to remove ice from your roof that will damage your asphalt shingles and compromise your roofs water-shedding ability. Protect your roof and home, and keep your limited warranty valid by asking your roofer to avoid these risky ice-removal methods:
- Manual removal: It is NOT a good idea to take a pick, shovel or another tool to the ice and chip it off. This might remove the ice, but might end up damaging the shingles too. Plus, the next ice dam in this spot is likely to take advantage of the cracks or gaps your roofers have created in the roof. As the snow melts, the water could settle into these cracks and freeze and expand. This kind of damage may result in a leak. The only time roofers should manually remove ice is when they will also replace the roof beneath it.
- Chemicals: Roofers should avoid using any chemicals on your roof. Many ice-melt products combine salt and other chemicals that make the salt a more effective de-icing treatment. More targeted ice dam ice-melt tablets are available, but are not recommended for asphalt roofs. Unfortunately, some of these chemicals can have a negative effect on asphalt shingles, especially if the chemicals are left on the roof for long periods, and their use may void the manufacturers limited warranty.
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Close Up Attic Bypasses
In the average home, about one-third of the heat loss is through the ceiling into the attic. And most of that loss comes from air leaks caused by unblocked walls, gaps in drywall, and cracks around light fixtures, plumbing pipes, chimneys, access hatches and other ceiling penetrations .
Air leaks can be tough to stop. You have to climb into your attic, pull or rake back insulation, and plug the leaks using foam, caulk and other methods. Low roof angles make some air leaks difficult to reach. This work is definitely a cool weather project your attic will be unbearably hot otherwise. Always wear a dust mask, a long-sleeved shirt and long pants to help prevent skin irritations caused by insulation.
When Should I Have My Roof Inspected For Damage
If youve experienced ice dams over the winter and done what you could to keep them at bay, the spring is the best time for an inspection. Determining and fixing any damage, as well as taking steps to prevent them next year is best done right away. It may prevent worse damage, and ensures you wont be waiting until the last minute next fall when roofers may already be booked up for the year. If you live within 60 miles of the Grand Rapids MI area you can contact Melvin Belk Roofing for a free roof inspection!
Dealing with ice dams after they occur is a lot harder than preventing them. But many of us still find ourselves with the problem. Deciding and implementing a safe way to get rid of them is important for the maintenance and value of your home. So decide what works for you and get going!
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How To Fix Roof Leak From Ice Dam
Ice dam roof leaks can cause property damages if not fixed early. The good news is that you can fix the problem in two steps. First, you can prevent the ice dams from forming. You can also remove the ice dams that have already accumulated on your roof.
If you notice ice dams forming on your rooftop, you need to remove them as soon as possible before they cause extensive damages. Thankfully, clearing the snow can solve the roof leak problems resulting from ice dams.
Here are the steps to follow to repair a roof leak caused by an ice dam.
Get a long-handled roof rake and pull the snow on your roof while standing safely on the ground. This will prevent the snow from refreezing into an ice dam. The best roof rake has wheels that move on the roof to prevent scratches and damages.
The roof rake also has a flat side that can gently pull snow from the roof. You can remove the snow without damaging the shingles. Its better than a chisel or shovel, which can damage the roof and result in roof leakages.
You can also blow cold air using a fan box when you notice ice dam leaks in your roof or attic space. This method is better than removing ice dams using a chisel, hammer, or shovel. All you have to do is point the fan box towards the leaking points on the roof.