An ice dam is a thick ridge of ice around the eaves of your roof.
On sloped roofs, snow melts and begins to slide down the roof. When it comes to the colder edges of the roof, it freezes, building up a mound of ice. The melt/freeze cycle can be a natural occurrence during warmer days and colder nights, but it can also be exacerbated by poor attic insulation that allows heat from the home to warm the roof.
The ice buildup can damage your gutters and your roof. As it melts, water trapped behind it can begin to seep into your home. This infiltration can cause your home’s structure to rot, allow the growth of hazardous mold, impact your indoor air quality, and cause visible staining and leakage. On the outside of your home, the built-up ice can be a hazard as it cracks and falls off the roof, possibly causing damage to property or harm to people.
Keeping your roof clear of snow using a roof rake can help prevent ice dams. You can prevent damage from ice dams more comprehensively by using appropriate attic insulation and ventilation as well as installing heat cables to minimize ice formation and retention on your roof. Insulation and ventilation that keeps the roof temperature below 30 °F will prevent damming. Installing additional insulation in your attic will help significantly if you struggle with ice dams.
If ice dams have already formed on your home, you must be careful remove the ice safely without causing damage to your roof, shingles, or gutters. Improper removal can result in exactly the kind of damage you want to prevent, cause leaks and water infiltration and require you to make roof repairs or replace your roof during the difficult winter season. Have a roofing professional inspect your roof and your attic insulation to explore your options for preventing future dam formation.