Everything You Wanted to Know about Ice Dams

While snow looks beautiful on a cold winter’s day, it can do costly damage to a home’s exterior. Extensive snow and ice damage could warrant a full roof replacement, costing an average of around $6,000, according to Home Advisor. That’s one bill that no homeowner wants to get hit with around the holidays. One of the biggest hazards of melting snow is the formation of ice dams on the roof. Ice dams can lead to a variety of problems for homeowners, so their prevention and swift removal are extremely important during the winter months.

How ice dams form

Warm air can collect in areas of the attic space just underneath of the roof, creating hot spots. The heat from these hot spots then causes snow on the roof to melt in those areas, while the rest of the snow and ice remains frozen. The melting snow refreezes, creating what are known as ice dams.

Damage from ice dams

Ice dams can harm a roof in several ways, from structural damage to mold growth and roof rot. Structural problems can include rotted roof decking, and damage to framing and walls. Paint can also start peeling, since water can seep into small cavities. Mold growth can cause or exacerbate respiratory issues, like asthma and allergies. It can also lower the effectiveness of insulation, leading to a colder or warmer interior, depending on the season. While damage from ice dams may not be obvious right away, it can occur slowly over time due to the presence of moisture.

Depending on the severity of the damage, it may be possible to make repairs. For older roofs or those with extensive damage, a full replacement may be necessary. Structural elements of the home may also need repairs or replacement.

Preventing ice dams

There are some relatively simple and effective ways to prevent ice dams. Many of these should be carried out by a professional to ensure that they’re done correctly. A professional assessment will also help homeowners understand what weather issues may affect their roof throughout the year.

Insulate the attic

Every attic should be well insulated with the proper unfaced fiberglass batting. It’s an affordable way to keep your home warmer in the winter and cooler in the summer. For sloped ceilings, maintain 3” of space between roof sheathing and the insulation.

Check attic vents

Cold air should be kept moving throughout the attic space. This can be achieved by opening up attic vents to allow cold air through. Consider having vents installed if your attic doesn’t have any already.

Clean and check gutters

Gutters are an important part of the roof, and should be cleaned and well maintained throughout the year. When gutters are clear, melting snow can move through them easily. The presence of icicles can indicate that your gutters are blocked with debris or have come unattached in spots.

Safely remove snow

After it snows, carefully clear off as much as you can with a broom or long-handled shovel. Gently push off the snow and ice, making sure that no one is below the area. Take care not to damage the roof shingles during the snow removal.

Prevention is the key to minimizing roof damage from ice dams. Before the snow starts this winter, have your roof and attic inspected to ensure that they’re in good shape and ready for the season.

Need help removing ice dams? We offer a number of winter services for customers that will safely and efficiently remove snow and ice from your deck, roof, driveways and walkways. You can learn more here or give us a call at 978-538-7325.


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