Ice damming occurs in winter when heat escapes from your attic warming up the snow and ice on your roof, flowing water into the lower part of your roof and your gutter systems. The water then freezes again when it hits this area, as they are still cold.
Mykhaylo Panchishak of American Hybrid Homes sat down with us and discussed the topic of ice damming. He explained that heat loss is the main cause for ice damming, basically stating, as we mentioned above, that because hot air rises, if your attic is not properly insulated that heat can escape out of your attic floor through penetrations from electricians, plumbers, etc. This hot air will melt the snow on your roof which will then trickle down into your lower roof and gutter systems, and freeze again.
Panchishak says, “The best way to prevent air from leaking out of your attic floor is to air seal the cracks, holes, and gaps in your walls and floors to improve your insulation.” By doing this, you keep the warm air, and heat that you pay for in your home, as you don’t want to heat your attic. In turn, proper insulation saves you money. Heattape is also a temporary fix for a warm air leakage issue.
“A lot of times when people have ice damming the first thing they go after are gutters,” said Panchishak, “It is smart to replace your gutters because you want to controllably redirect the water somewhere else, but before you do that you have to fix the primary cause of the issue.” So, before you fix and/or blame your gutters, you have to fix the reason for ice damming to begin with, which is heat loss. By better insulating you attic everything can now all work properly together for all seasons. Just because melted snow freezes in your rain gutter, that does not mean that the gutter system is to blame, as there clearly is an underlying source this melted water is coming from.
Your attic also needs to be ventilated to prevent not only heat loss, but also moisture. The life span of your attic will decrease without proper ventilation. Panchishak says that “sometimes people have a dryer vented into the attic, which not only is a fire hazard, but this will also serve to heat the attic and contribute to ice damming.”
You may want to consider adding soffit vents to your home/attic to increase airflow. These vents allow outside air to enter the attic at the lowest point of the roof.