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How to Prevent Ice Dams from Harming Your Home

As a New Jersey homeowner, you likely know how damaging ice can be to your roof. Ice dams can be a scary term, as the dams can cause a great deal of damage to your roof if left unchecked. As a roofing contractor, our American Home Contractors team wants you to feel like a confident, educated homeowner.

With the right knowledge and roofing maintenance, you can alleviate the worry of a water-damaged roof this winter. Here is what you should know about ice dams and how to prevent them from wreaking havoc on your home.

The Negative Impacts of Ice Dams

Ice dams can damage your roof in two ways. They can weaken the structural integrity of your shingles, and they can cause water intrusion and damage. Shingles are laid in a way that protects the underlying roof and home from water runoff. An ice dam will block water from properly draining, backlogging water on your roof. As that reservoir grows, the water moves backward and under the shingles, damaging the roofing and interior of your home.

The density of ice also makes it heavy. The more ice that builds up, the more weight your shingles are forced to carry. That weight can cause the shingles to weaken or buckle, reducing their lifespan.

To minimize the harmful effects ice dams can have on your roof, it’s important to understand what causes them in order to know what roofing maintenance can prevent them.

How Do Ice Dams Form?

Ice dams don’t just appear out of nowhere. Their formation is the result of the freeze and thaw cycle that causes the buildup of ice on the eaves of your roof.

As snow falls onto your roof, it may encounter hot spots (areas of warmer surface temperature). Those hot spots cause the snow in that region to melt. As the melted water makes its way to the edge of your roof with a lower surface temperature, it freezes. The snowfall that accumulates creates a dam of ice, blocking precipitation from properly draining off of your roof.

How to Prevent Them

The solution to ice dams relies on maintaining a consistent and even temperature in your attic. This will reduce the thaw and freeze cycle and keep a dam from occurring. Here are some ways to help properly prevent ice dams.

Attic Insulation

Many homes in the United States are under-insulated. And in regions of the country where freezing temperatures and snowfall are common, having the proper amount of attic insulation can greatly reduce the formation of ice dams. The hot spots on a roof, which cause the melting of snow, appear due to differences in air temperature in the attic. Insulation aids in providing an even distribution of heat.

If your home has floor attic insulation, it should have no less than 8 inches. If your attic has less, you will need additional insulation. You can add spray insulation or rolled insulation. When adding rolled insulation, lay the insulation perpendicular to the pre-laid insulation to help seal any drafts.

Ventilate Soffits and Ridges

A secondary part of regulating the temperature in your attic comes through proper ventilation. While most attics will have an attic vent, it is also important to ventilate the ridges of your roof and the soffits.

Heat rises. By ventilating your roof’s ridges, it allows hot air to escape from the attic rather than remain trapped and heat the shingles. By ventilating the soffits, it allows cold air to circulate into your attic. As you heat your home and that heat leaks into your attic space, the exterior cold air circulating into your roof will help cool the warmer temperature in your attic, reducing the chance for heat pockets that melt ice.

Seal Channels of Heat Loss

Your roof may have vents, exhausts, a chimney, skylights, or other features where air can leak through your roof. If warm air escapes these areas, it will melt the surrounding snow and cause the thaw and freeze cycle to occur.

Having these channels properly sealed will eliminate the escape of warm air. If these areas of your home have already been sealed, have them checked before snowfall occurs. Remove any broken seals and have them replaced.

Seal Attic Bypasses

Leaks from the attic aren’t the only areas air can leak. Air can also make its way from your home into your attic regardless of the insulation levels. If your home has recessed lighting, bathroom exhaust fans, an attic door, or other openings in the attic floor, air can make its way into your attic. Sealing these areas can help regulate the temperature inside of your attic.

Remove Snow Buildup

Removing the snow from your roof is not a permanent solution to an ice dam problem, but it can help diminish the snow used in the freeze-and-thaw cycle. Use a snow rake to remove snow buildup.

If you have a heavy buildup of snow and need to climb onto your roof for removal, use the proper safety equipment when doing so. But to ensure your safety, consider hiring a professional.

What Not to Do

As important as it is to know how to prevent ice dams, it is equally as important to know what not to do. Attempting the wrong removal methods can cause greater damage to your roof.

  • Never chip at the ice dam. You can cause damage to the underlying shingle.
  • Do not use harmful chemicals to melt the ice. Chemicals can contain corrosive properties that harm your roof.

Keep Your Roof Performing Its Best

Ice dams don’t have to be an issue for your home. You can be a confident homeowner. By implementing the right steps into your winter roofing maintenance routine, you can keep your roofing investment from experiencing unnecessary damage.

And if your roof has experienced any damage or simply needs maintenance, contact our team of roofing contractors for a roof repair consultation to keep your roof ready for the new year.