How to Cure Your Winter Ice Dam Problem for Good


Once the winter chill has set in for the season, the relentless cold can wreak havoc on your home and roof. One thing that you might not know is a symptom of serious trouble is the formation of icicles along the eaves of your roof. Although beautiful, ice buildup can harm your gutters and cause significant damage to many parts of your home.



What Is an Ice Dam?

"Ice dam" refers to the buildup of ice along the eaves of a roof, After a heavy snowfall, heat leaking out through the ceiling can cause the roof to be warmer than the outside air temperature and melt the snow that's piled up on your roof. That snowmelt will trickle down a sloped roof, under the snow layer. However, the eaves of the roof—which don’t have warm attic air underneath them—are much colder. As the melted snow comes into contact with the cold eaves, the water re-freezes; over time, a mound (or “dam”) of ice builds. Icicles form from the roof gutters as water slowly drips off the dam, while standing water pools on the roof behind it.



What Problems Can Ice Dams Cause?

The buildup of ice can cause damage to your gutters, and the standing water behind the ice dam can lead to water infiltration along your roof, under shingles, and through any seams. Water infiltration can lead to the formation of hazardous mold, wood rot, structural damage to your roof, and damage to the inside of your home. It can also lead to leaks and poor air quality inside your home.

Ice dams can damage your gutters, causing them to sag, detach, or break off because of the extra weight. Broken or damaged gutters can’t successfully drain water away from your home’s foundation, which increases the risk of basement flooding. Clumps of ice can tear off shingles, gutters, and even parts of the roof underlayment as they fall away. Additionally, heavy and sharp falling icicles can be a significant hazard to anyone and anything below.



Ice Dam Prevention for Your Home

Proper ice dam prevention is essential to ensure your home stays dry during snowy Iowa winters. Keeping your roof entirely clear of snow is one solution, but this can be practically impossible during many winters. A more realistic and comprehensive long-term solution, however, has the added benefit of reducing your energy bills. Most ice dams are caused by poor attic insulation, improper roof installation, or an aging or damaged roof—all conditions that allow heat to escape through your roof surface and contribute to the melting/freezing cycle of ice dam formation. Improving your home’s ability to keep the warm air from leaking out will prevent dams and all the problems they cause.

The key is to make sure your roof stays below 30°F during freezing weather. You may be able to do this effectively and economically by adding additional attic insulation or replacing your old attic insulation. Seal all points where heat is leaking from your living space into your attic, and make sure your attic is appropriately ventilated. If you struggle with ice damming in small areas, you might consider having heat cables installed to minimize ice formation and retention in problematic locations.



When It’s Time to Replace Your Roof

If your roof is already damaged due to years of ice dam problems, or if it’s reached the end of its life expectancy, roof repair may not be an option. The upside is that this gives you the opportunity to prevent ice damming much more effectively in the long term. One option that is very effective at preventing ice dams is a stone-coated steel roof. Metal roofs reduce the ability of snow to adhere and build up in the first place. If ice dams do form, a metal roof is better at sealing out moisture and is more durable and long-lasting than an asphalt shingle roof. Regardless of the material you choose for your new roof, however, make sure that you hire an experienced roofing company to install it properly. Shoddy installation can nullify the benefits of your new roof, allowing heat leakage and ice damming—all the problems you were trying to prevent.



What If You Already Have Ice Dams?

If you have problems with existing ice dams, call a professional. Improper removal can cause damage to your roof, shingles, and gutters, causing leaks. This kind of damage will require you to make roof repairs or replace your roof—something you want to avoid during the winter season if possible. Hire a professional to remove damming and advise you on your options. To avoid having to deal with future ice dams, have a roofing professional inspect your roof and your attic insulation, and discuss your options for preventing ice dams permanently. Call us at 515-597-ROOF (7663) or click the link below to find out more about our roofing services, to schedule an appointment, or for a roofing estimate. We proudly serve Ames, Ankeny, Huxley, and the surrounding areas.