How to Stop Ice Dams Permanently
If ice dams have you saying “dang,” we’ve got a solution for you. The key to stopping ice dams involves increasing ventilation in your attic, adding insulation and sealing air leaks. This is not a quick fix but a permanent correction, so it requires some effort and, most likely, professional assistance. However, the long run benefits not only include a roof free of ice dams, but a more energy-efficient home! We’d call that a win-win. Here’s how to get started.
Understand the problem. Ice dams happen when snow accumulates on your roof and warmth from the attic melts the snow closest to it while the snow on top stays cold, causing ice to form. The ice really isn’t the problem, it’s the additional water that can’t run down the roof like it should. The water then backs up under the shingles and into the house and that’s where your problems begin. And, once you have a water leak in your home, secondary damage isn’t far behind. Knowing why ice dams are a problem helps you stop them at the source.
Increase ventilation. Keeping cold air moving under the roof is the first step toward eliminating ice dams. The ridge and soffit vents are designed to do this, but they might require a professional inspection and baffles to improve the flow and provide a clear path for the air.
Cap the attic hatch. If you have an unsealed attic hatch, a weather stripping cap will keep the heat in your home and prevent it from creeping into the attic. Remember, you don’t want warm air coming up into the attic and melting snow on the roof, causing freezing and ice dams.
Examine exhaust systems. Most homes have exhaust ducts in the bathrooms, kitchen, and from dryers. These vents should all lead outdoors through the roof or walls. If they are vented to the soffit, you’ll need to have that changed for permanent ice dam remediation.
Check the insulation. Check to see if your attic floor needs more insulation. Maintaining this protective barrier at optimum depth helps your home stay warmer and more energy efficient while keeping the cool air in the attic.
Install chimney flashing. Do you have flashing, a metal strip which prevents water penetration, between your chimney and the house? If not, it’s time to add it and seal any gaps where ice, water and cold wind can sneak in. Remember, you’re working around the chimney so using fire-safe products is essential.
Caulk leaks. Anywhere electrical cables, vent pipes, satellite dishes and other penetrations occur in the roof, you stand the risk of having gaps and air leaks. Caulk these areas with a fire-stop sealant to keep them as air-tight as possible.
Check the ducts. Make sure all ductwork through the attic is properly sealed and insulated. If you have an older home, it pays to check your heating ducts to make sure they’re not bringing excess heat into the attic.
Look at the lights. If you have can lights or other light fixtures in your ceiling that are not sealed, you’re releasing heat into the attic. You might also be putting your home at risk for a fire. For increased safety, change these lights to an IC rated fixture and insulate over the lights.
Add an ice-and-water barrier. If you’re reroofing, it’s time to add an ice-and-water barrier. This is a great layer of protection! While many regions now require it, it wasn’t always mandated so your home may not have one. An ice-and-water barrier needs to be added under a roof, so it’s cost prohibitive if you’re not reroofing — but if you are, it’s the perfect time to add it.
Quick Fixes to Stop Ice Dams
While your goal is to permanently stop ice dams, you might need to use a few quick fixes in the meantime. These tips help you stay on top of ice dams and prevent damage to your home.
Use a snow rake. After a heavy snowfall, give your roof a break by raking the snow off. This inexpensive tool pulls down the snow so it can’t melt and then refreeze into an ice dam. Only use a snow rake from the ground or your deck, never from a ladder. And be careful not to break shingles, which can be brittle in bitter cold temperatures.
Try calcium chloride. Avoid using rock salt as it can damage paint and metal on your home. But calcium chloride can help melt ice and get water flowing again.
Install heat cables. Mount heat cables along the edge of your roof and through the downspout so snow melts and runs down the proper channels.
Steam it off. If you have an ice dam already and you can see that there is a leak coming into your home, you’ll want to remedy it as soon as possible. Check with local roofing companies to see if they have a steamer that can melt the ice off the roof without damaging your shingles.
Not having to worry about ice dams can be a huge relief in the winter months. You instantly free yourself from the immediate issues of a damaged roof and leaks. In addition your home becomes more energy efficient, more comfortable and the air quality in your home will improve if moisture isn’t sneaking in and forming mold and mildew.
If you have more concerns about your roof or you’d like to learn how your homeowners insurance protects your roof and everything under it, connect with your American Family Insurance agent — they’ve got the answers you need.