If you are a New England resident, chances are, you are familiar with ice dams and the damage they can cause. Ice dams are formed when built-up snow on your roof begins to melt during the day, but freezes over again at night. The closest layer of snow on the roof is warm due to the temperature in the attic. The top of the snow is usually cold, which acts almost like it’s own insulation, so the snow underneath the top layer melts down to the bottom edges of the roof. When it freezes at the edge of your roofline, it can form an ice dam. Ice dams can get so large that they can prevent water from the melting snow to drain off as it should. Due to issues with improper ventilation, insulation, gutter cleaning and snow removal on the roof, and different temperatures within the attic and edge of the roof, they can occur. Ice dams can cause damage ranging from $10,000-$100,000. One of the worst cases The Roofing Doctor has seen is an entire kitchen destroyed as a result of an ice dam. The good news is, there are ways to prevent ice dams from forming and causing damage to your home.
5 Tips to Prevent Ice Dams:
- Remove the snow at the edge with a specific roof rake for 4-5ft of snow. There are also some companies that use steam to remove the snow/ice dams. Do not power wash the end of the roof, use a rake, or shovel as it will damage the roof, shingles, and gutters.
- Check your attic insulation to make sure heat isn’t escaping. Poor insulation creates condensation and ice dams as well as future issues like structural damage and mold.
- Ensure there is insulation in places you may not have considered, like recessed lighting, skylight shaft, and vents in bathrooms. It is important to have adequate insulation and ventilation in those areas. Even the hatch or top of the attic ladder not having proper insulation can cause problems with insulation in the attic.
- Consider heating cables to melt ice before it forms. The Roofing Doctor installs products from ProLine Radiant Heat Solutions. They offer self-regulating heat cable lines to use toward the end of the roof and in the valleys to ensure they don’t build up ice. They are also available with low electric output and in a layer to be installed under the end of the roof. These are installed in critical areas like the gutters, valleys and end of roof and the product line as various options. If you heat your floors and garage, why not your roof?
- Make sure any specialists regarding insulation, ventilation, or removal of ice dams are educated, certified and insured. Ask specialists to explain the process and answer any questions to gain a better understanding of ice dam prevention.
Prevention is most important to avoid costly repairs down the line. If ice dams do form, be sure to to address it as soon as possible as they can destroy your gutters and cause structural damage when left unchecked. If you can safely access your roof, start chipping the ice off and clear the gutter area. In most situations, this is where you would call in an expert because it is quite dangerous to do this on your own. When not executed properly, the chipping action can damage the shingles. A safer option could be to use hot water, but only if you’re certain you don’t already have leaks. Calcium chloride ice melting products can also be generously sprinkled on the dam, causing the ice to break down and melt off. However, don’t use rock salt or sodium chloride, because while these will also melt the ice, they can damage your roof. If you’re having issues with ice dams and it’s storm related, you might be able to get your insurance to pay for the removal of the snow/ice with professionals as it’s cheaper for them to do this vs. having to replace the whole roof at some point due to long term issues caused by the ice dams.
If you are experiencing frequent ice dams or damage as a result of ice dam formation and you live in the Greater Boston / Rhode Island area, give The Roofing Doctor a call. If you are a Massachusetts resident, please call (508) 379-1200. If you are a Rhode Island resident, please call (401) 246-0711. You can also click here to submit a form on our website and we will reach out to you regarding your next project.