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How Can I Prevent Ice Damming?

Episode 2: How To Prevent Ice Damming On a Roof?

This week’s question is from Richard, from Alexandria Virginia. Richard asked:

“A few years ago, I got terrible Ice damming from a large snowfall and lots of water poured into both of my upstairs bedrooms facing the front of the house . They are calling for a lot of snow this year and I’m afraid this will happen again. Is there a way to help prevent this?”

Thank you, Richard! Here’s my answer:

Ice damming is a serious problem for many homes during the winter. Those pretty icicles building up on the edge of your roof could be doing some serious damage to your home. Preventing them from occurring in the first case is one of the best ways you can help protect the longevity of your roof.

As I mentioned in the video, ice dams are caused by snow that melts on your roof. The melting snow runs down the slope of your roof to the edge where it collects and refreezes forming an ice dam. Over time as the ice dam melts, it could begin to force water up underneath the shingles on the edge of the roof. This can speed the deterioration of your shingles, as well as cause your roof deck to grow black mold or even to begin rotting.

Because ice dams are caused by melting snow, the best way that you can prevent them is to remove the snow from your roof. There are special tools available that allow to stand on a ladder or on the ground and safely scrape the snow off your roof. Snow removal is a good idea even without ice dams, simply because the weight of all that snow up there could be causing your roof deck to sag as well.

Even if you invest in other methods to help prevent ice dams, snow removal is still your best defense. This is because that snow is going to melt eventually. And if you get a combination of warm days and cold nights, you could be putting yourself in the position of an ice dam, even if you’ve taken other preventative measures.

Besides snow removal, the other best method of ice dam prevention is to ensure that you have good attic insulation and ventilation. Remember that heat rises, so as you turn up the thermostat to warm your home in the winter that warm air is rising to your attic if there isn’t good insulation helping to prevent this. And if that warm air gets trapped up there, this will cause your roof deck to warm up, causing the snow in contact with the roof to begin to melt. This can be occurring even if you don’t see the snow melting on your roof, because often the snow will freeze on top while melting underneath, rather than melting from the top down.

By having good attic ventilation installed, you prevent your attic from getting too warm. This in turn prevents the snow on your roof from melting and creating an ice dam. So in effect, having good attic ventilation can help buy you a little time between snow removals.

Remember, ice dams may look pretty, but they can be doing serious damage to your roof each winter. Take the time to get the snow off your roof on a regular basis, and invest in some good attic ventilation to help stop the snow up there from melting. With a little effort, you can stop those ice dams all together and help save your roof.

Thank you for your question, Richard!

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