Here comes winter again, and with it the many risks associated with cold and unpredictable weather. One of those risks is ice damming. An ice dam can cause many problems to the interior and exterior of your home as well as your wallet. Ice dam prevention is key. But what are the warning signs and what are the risks?
Let’s address this question. 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.
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. Heed the warnings! Icicles in these areas means bad news, especially if you 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.
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.
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.
As for proactive approaches there are a few options. One of which is heating cables. 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. When installation is done correctly the cable is put in your gutter. When turning it on, it will transfer heat to your gutter preventing ice from forming.
Having your gutter system evaluated prior to start of the season can also help prevent issues. Winterizing your home plays a role in enduring the cold weather. FAQs to run down and create your own checklist can be helpful. Our Solutionists can schedule you for your fall cleaning and make recommendations on how to best prepare for the harsh winter ahead.
Of course there are ways to completely prevent ice damming. To really stop the problem from re-occurring every winter you’ll have to do some work in your attic. Heat loss often occurs here. Completely insulating your attic with spray foam is the best way to make sure the heat doesn’t escape. This will melt the snow at the top of your roof. Another way is making sure your roof is properly ventilated. Venting soffits and ridge vents will insure that your roof will stay the same temperature as the outside air.
For more information on the snow removal services The Brothers That Just Do Gutters is here to help you get through the season. For additional info, watch our video about Ice Damming and how to prevent it from occurring.