What's Up With Ice Dams?

The classic image of a snow-covered roof dotted with icicles has a certain seasonal charm. But if you have any experience with a cold and snowy winter, you might know that those icicles can lead to ice dams – and ice dams can cause some not-so-fun damage to the home you love.

What are ice dams exactly? Picture the big chunks of ice that form at the edge of your roof. Even though they look beautiful, they actually prevent melting snow from draining off, and can cause lots of water to pool on your roof.

Ice dams increase the chances of ice and water seeping into your attic, soaking your insulation and causing structural damage. And over the years, the effects of ice dams can lead to blistering of the interior and exterior paint and spur the growth of mold and mildew.

So what’s the fix?


Ice dams typically form near the edge of the roof when water runs off the warmed roof and then freezes again at the eaves.  They can also form on gutters that don’t drain completely and around skylights, because of the less-insulated design. Water-stained ceilings, dislodged shingles, sagging gutters and peeling paint can all be indicators of ice dam damage.


One of the major causes of ice dams is insufficient insulation and venting in the attic. The insulation keeps warm air in your house, while the venting system keeps your attic cool. Together, this clever combination keeps snow on the roof from melting. If that snow never melts ice dams shouldn’t form. 


Using a roof rake is one of the easiest ways to prevent ice dams from forming and an efficient way to remove dams already up there.  You can find them at most hardware stores – and chances are you’re not the only one in your neighborhood to buy one! A roof rake lets you clear the snow from the bottom portion of the roof, so any moisture and snowmelt has a clear run-off path. By keeping water off the roof, ice dams never have the chance to form. Nice work!

So keep an eye out for those pesky little ice dams – especially now that you know the signs to watch for. You’ve got this!

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