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Essential Tips on Roofs for Homeowners to Prevent Ice Dams

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As temperatures drop and snowfall becomes more frequent, it’s crucial to understand how to prevent ice damming on your roof. Homeowners in regions prone to below-freezing temperatures need to be aware of the potential damage ice dams can cause and take proactive steps to protect their homes.

Understanding Ice Dams

Ice dams are typically formed on the ridges of roofs when heat from inside a home rises to the attic and causes snow that has accumulated on top of the roof to melt. Once the snow begins to melt, it trickles down the slope of a roof underneath the snow that’s still on top of the roof, puddles (typically near eaves), and refreezes when it hits below-freezing temperatures due to improper drainage.

This inability to be properly drained from the roof’s surface combined with the ice dams formed from refreezing can cause costly damage to homes, including damage to the structure itself, damage to gutters, leaking, and more. The most common causes of ice dams are from inadequate roof insulation, heat leaks, and inadequate ventilation. The freeze-thaw cycle continues as an area experiences a warm, sunny day followed by freezing cold nights through the winter season.

Effective Strategies to Prevent Ice Damming

Preventing ice dams on your home’s roof can help you save time, money, and potential damages to your property. The basic way to ensure you’re protecting your home’s roof against ice dams is to keep your attic space air temperature as close to the outdoor temperature as possible. You can use a few different methods to achieve this:

Seal Any Air Leaks – Finding and sealing up any small air leaks that allow warm air from inside your home to reach your attic space is a great first step to preventing ice damming. Even the smallest holes or pathways that let warm air escape need to be properly sealed. After identifying any leaks, simply seal them up with spray foam or weather stripping to keep warm air out of your attic space.

Adequate Insulation – Insulation is crucial to prevent your attic space from becoming too warm and causing ice dams on your roof. Make sure your attic has sufficient insulation based on your geographic location’s building codes. Many older homes and structures do not have enough insulation to keep the space cool. Insulation plays a huge part in preventing ice dams and should not be overlooked.

Proper Ventilation – Another great way to help your attic space and roof stay cool in the winter months is to ensure you have proper ventilation. Although, improving your home’s ventilation system will not solve ice damming issues alone (you must seal air leaks and add more insulation to truly tackle the problem). The best places to check for proper ventilation is in your home’s soffit and ridge vents. Soffit especially is designed to drive cold air to the inside of your attic space. Make sure your home has these vents in order to keep your attic space cool.

Icicles

If you’re thinking about installing a new roof and are concerned about ice dams, metal roofing is a superior choice for cold-weather, high snow volume environments. Metal roofs naturally shed snow like a pro and significantly reduce the amount of ice dams around your roof. The sleek material of steel helps snow slide right off your roof, and with adequate pitch and minimal amounts of valleys, the chances of ice damming reduces greatly. The biggest concern with metal roofing and snow is “roof avalanches,” which is when snow and ice is suddenly released from your roof all at once. However, this concern can very easily be addressed and fixed by using snow guards.

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