Save a Home, Prevent an Ice Dam – 6 Steps

The yearly formation of icicles and snow buildup along the lower sections of your roof is a serious cause for concern. Ice dams can result in a multitude of hidden problems that are usually not seen by homeowners until it is too late, including: rot and mold inside your home, roof warping, structural wall damage, higher energy costs and many more.

Ice dams can be prevented if you do the necessary checks and repairs to your roof system before winter weather sets in. The primary issue of ice dam formation is roof circulation. With proper attic and ceiling insulation, clear and suitable intake and exhaust ventilation, clean gutters and downspouts, as well as inner home fixture repairs, you can stop this problem before it ends up costing you substantial amounts of money in energy bills and structural damage to your home.

There are a number of steps that should be taken to stop this problem:

  1. Clean all gutters and downspouts.

    Gutters are not the primary cause of ice dams though they do help keep them in place. Make sure that once the autumn leaf and needle loss is finished, all your gutter systems are completely free of debris.

  2. Clean all soffit/eave vents.

    Often when homeowners repaint their homes they inadvertently paint over the soffit ventilation. This intake ventilation helps to keep your attic cool in summer and warm in winter. If they are clogged you lose upwards of 50% of your roof ventilation requirements. Ice dams form in this area of your roof.

  3. Seal all air leakage pathways within your home and attic to the best of your ability.

    This includes, but is not limited to: light fixtures, fireplaces (especially their connection with the attic), external to internal wiring openings (phone, internet, satellite cabling holes), heating and plumbing breaches, attic hatches, exterior joints and any other possible air leakage areas that allow warm air to accumulate in the upper areas of the attic (UMAU).

  4. Evaluate ceiling insulation.

    If you have improper amounts of ceiling insulation then too much heat is escaping into the attic which then causes snow to melt in the upper regions of your attic. The minimum suggestion for insulation in mid and northern climates is R-38, though regulations differ from state to state.

  5. Install proper roof ventilation.

    The optimal amount of roof ventilation as recommended by the Federal Housing Administration is a 1/150 per square foot ratio.

  6. Install enough intakes (soffit) and exhaust (ridge) ventilation

    Doing this provides enough air circulation in your attic. This will help reduce the melting and buildup of snow and ice in different regions of your roof.

The stopping of ice dam formation is not an easy task, especially in older homes where excessive warm air transmission within the house and insufficient roof ventilation are common problems. But, with due diligence and preparation, you can lessen the possibility of ice dams while improving the entire energy efficiency of your home.

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