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.
What Causes Ice Dams On Some Roofs And Not Others?
You can drive down any residential street in Pensylvania and see ice dams on some roofs but not others. Snow and ice are everywhere, so why are some roofs unaffected? First, understand how moisture in snow or cold wet weather forms an ice ridge rather than melting off the roof.
Normally, snow accumulates on your roof during winter. The underside is exposed to the heat of the attic. Yes, the attic is cold but it’s not as cold as the outdoor air. What should happen is a gradual melt all the way down the roof (and hopefully into the gutter system). If there are cold spots in the attic just underneath and near the edge of the roof, this heat differential turns the melting snow into an ice sheet. Before you know it, there’s a huge ice dam that just keeps getting bigger.
How To Prevent Ice Dams On Your Roof
Some ice dam prevention methods aren’t really a permanent solution but instead only treat the ice buildup after it forms. But there are more permanent solutions. It’s up to you as a homeowner to decide which method is best for you. Here are 4 ways to either prevent or deal with ice dams on your roof.
- Install gutter heaters – Gutter heaters are installed to melt ice as it moves close to the gutters. These roof heating cables will help to prevent ice buildup along the roof edge. You may need to install an outdoor GFI grounded outlet if you don’t have one. While it treats the symptom and not the cause, it is a better solution than not doing anything about the ice dams.
- Install roof de-icing cable – Additionally, roof heating cables can be installed upward to the roof area. They should be installed wherever ice accumulates on your particular roof.
- Ventilation – If the air inside the attic space isn’t properly flowing around, the edges of the roof can be colder than at the peak. If this is causing the ice dams, improving the roof ventilation will solve the problem permanently.
- Insulation – Similarly, missing insulation near the edges of the roof and exterior walls can cause ice dams. This problem creates pockets of cold air that allow the melting snow to freeze along the roof edge. A roof inspection will determine whether the problem has to do with ventilation or missing insulation. Fix it permanently by adding insulation wherever it’s missing.