How You Can Prevent Ice Dams This Winter

As winter sets in, the last thing you'll want to deal with is a leak caused by an ice dam. Ice dams can form when accumulated snow melts and migrates to the edge of the roof, where it freezes to form a dam. This dam can trap more melted snow behind it. Without anywhere else to go, the water migrates underneath the roof shingles and into the walls and ceilings of your home. The resulting water damage and potential mold and mildew growth can prove expensive and time-consuming to remedy.

When dealing with ice dams, an ounce of prevention is definitely worth a pound of cure. The following offers a few ways you can proactively deal with ice dams by preventing them from happening in the first place.

Proper Insulation is the Key

One way to prevent ice dams from forming on your roof is to make sure your attic is properly insulated. Recommended home insulation R-values can vary depending on where you live in the U.S. For example, an attic inside a home located in the Great Lakes area of the U.S. needs insulation with a minimum R-value of 49.

To achieve these levels, you'll not only need to choose the right insulation, but also make sure you have enough insulation on your attic floor. By measuring the thickness of your attic floor insulation and multiplying the results by 3.14, you can get your insulation's current R-value and add more to bring your attic up to standards.

As you insulate your attic, you'll want to stay clear of the outer edges and walls of the roof. For starters, you could accidentally cover up your soffit if you add insulation to these areas. Another reason is that leaving the edges uncovered can prevent moisture from getting trapped in the attic, which could cause condensation and eventual mold and mildew problems.

Proper Ventilation Also Counts

Warm air rises and as it does, it'll inevitably reach the highest portions of your home. As warm air becomes trapped in your attic, it can cause roof temperatures to rise just enough to cause melting and eventual refreezing of snow and meltwater. To keep this from happening, you'll need to keep your roof as cool as possible.

Soffit vents and ridge vents are essential for bringing cooler air into the attic and pushing warmer air out of the attic. Soffit vents are those small openings found underneath the roof overhang, while ridge vents are located near or at the peak of the roof. Under ideal conditions, cool air from the soffit vents pushes the warmer attic air towards the ridge vent. Negative pressure caused by wind passing over the ridge vent draws the warm air out of the attic.

If your home has gable vents instead of soffit vents, you may need to make the gable vents bigger to maintain sufficient air flow. According to the American Institute of Building Design, the average attic needs 1 square foot of ventilation for every 150 square feet of floor space. Larger gable vents can help control attic temperatures and prevent snow from melting.  

Proactive Clearing Can Also Help

Another way you can prevent ice dams from forming on your roof is by occasionally clearing excess snow from your roof, especially after bouts of heavy snowfall. You can use an aluminum snow rake or a shovel with a plastic or rubberized edge to clear snow from the roof.

However, you don't want to do this too often. Every time you remove snow from the roof in this manner, you'll also remove a few asphalt shingle granules along with the snow. Excessive clearing could add up to long-term roof damage if you're not careful. Contact a roofing company like Bob Behrends Roofing & Gutters LLC for more help preventing ice dams.