Here comes winter again, and with it the many risks associated with cold and unpredictable weather. One of those risks is ice damming. Ice damming can cause many problems to the interior and exterior of your home as well as your wallet. There are steps you can take to deal with and prevent ice damming but it all starts with one question: Am I at risk for ice damming?
Before we talk about anything else let’s talk about what some of you are thinking, what’s ice damming? Basically ice damming is when the heat in your home escapes through your attic and makes your roof warm. After it snows the warm part of your roof melts the snow and that water flows down to the bottom of your roof, which is still cold. Once the melted snow and water reach the cold roof some of it freezes into ice and traps the remainder against your home. This water can be forced back under your shingles and finds its way into your attic, ceilings and the interior walls of your home. This can cost you big bucks to fix whatever damage it has caused.
Well how can you tell if ice damming is occurring? The Ice Dam Company in Hopkins, MN is a company that has to deal with harsh winters every year and they have come up with six ice dam warning signs. First warning sign is if you see icicles forming at the edge of your roofline, with or without gutters. Second is if you see a “wall” of ice on top of your gutters. That is the actual ice dam so if you see that it’s time to take action. Third, you see ice coming through the soffit or soffit vents. If water can get into your soffit it’s only a matter of time before it finds its way into your home. Fourth is seeing icicles forming behind your gutter. I sound like a broken record but basically icicles in all these areas means bad news. Five and six are seeing ice form under the soffit directly on your home or directly under your window frames. If that’s happening you most likely already have a bad ice dam.
If none of that has ever happened to your home then you’re in luck! You’re probably not at risk! If you have experienced ice damming before then I’m sorry but there’s a good chance it’s going to happen again. But don’t worry! There are ways to fight it! There are reactive approaches and proactive approaches.
The reactive approach would be to remove at least the first 3-5 feet of snow when it falls. Snow is a great insulator, which is why leaving that snow there will only worsen the problem. Removing that snow will allow the trapped water to flow somewhere besides into your home. In the same vein, if you apply some ice-melting agent, like an approved gutter-melt for example, that will cause the ice to melt more quickly then the trapped water will have an even easier time escaping and flowing away from your house. I know shoveling your roof doesn’t sound like something that is necessary but think about it like your driveway or walkway. If you don’t shovel it every time it snows then you won’t be able to use it and the snow will continue to pile up. If you call someone to remove the snow and ice a month after the first snowfall and it’s snowed since then, that’s going to be quite the project. The same applies to your roof.
Heating Cables In Action
As for proactive approaches there are a few options. One of which is heating cables. Now this isn’t something you can just throw up on your roof and just leave there; there are many variables to consider when installing heat cables. They must be professionally installed. Home Depot offers heating cable and heat tape options but in our experience they don’t really get the job done; you’re better off going the professional route. We recommend you have a certified electrician install a heat cable such as Danfoss, which we have seen work very well. When installed correctly the cable is put in your gutter and when turned on will transfer heat to your gutter preventing ice from forming.
Now of course there are ways to completely prevent ice damming, but that takes more than tossing some cables in your gutter. To really stop the problem from re-occurring every winter you’ll have to do some work in your attic. Completely insulating your attic with spray foam is the best way to make sure the heat doesn’t escape and melt the snow at the top of your roof. If you’re not thrilled about spray foam another way is making sure your roof is properly ventilated with vented soffits and ridge vents to insure that your roof will stay the same temperature as the outside air.
I’m really only scratching the surface of winter gutter concerns so check back soon for more winter blogs. For more information on the snow removal services The Brothers That Just Do Gutters offer click here. And if you would like to see our video about Ice Damming and how to prevent click here.