Winter is here! With winter comes the many ‘joys’ the cold brings along. The ‘joys’ up for discussion today are ice dams. An ice dam is thick ridges of ice that form along a roof edge. Subsequent ice build-up on the roof causes water to back up and cause water leaks in the home. What causes ice dams? How can you prevent them? Great news! We’ve got the answers right here.


what are ice dams?

An Ice Dam is a thick barrier of ice, formed along the roof edge, that prevents snowmelt water runoff from reaching the ground. Snow melts from heat, either heat escaping your home or the heat beamed down from the sun above. Water from melting snow runs down the roof and refreezes when it reaches cooler areas. Ice frozen in cooler areas stops future water runoff, which in turn refreezes to make the initial dam large. Frozen water buildup left unchecked will migrate underneath the shingles and cause damage to anything underneath, from insulation to the interior walls of the home.


causes of ice dams

Ice Dams occur from poor distribution of heat. Contributing factors include:

● Poor Insulation: When heat escapes your home it warms the roof. A warm roof melts the snow resting on it, contributing to any building ice dams.

● Attic Ventilation: Cold air not circulating properly in an attic leads to uneven roof temperatures. Temperature differences increase the potential for ice dams.

● Roof Design: Low-sloped roofs or complex rooflines are more prone to ice dam formation. Unfortunately, some roof designs are just more susceptible to heat loss and uneven snow accumulation and require extra attention in the winter months.

● Weather: Completely outside of a homeowner’s control, a warm sunny day followed by a cold icy night is the ideal condition for ice dam creation. If the temperature is fluctuates, keep an eye out.


preventing ice dams

Ice dams can be prevented, precautionary measures include:

● Improving Insulation: Proper insulation in the home, especially the attic, reduces the heat that escapes your home to the roof. Better insulation also helps maintain consistent temperatures throughout the home and lowers energy costs. Win/win.

● Installing proper Attic Ventilation: A good ventilation system allows cold air to circulate evenly. Even circulation prevents warm air buildup and uneven roof temperatures.

● Sealing air leaks: Are there cracks in the floor, ceiling, or walls of your home? Seal them to stop warm air from migrating up to your roof.

● Clearing snow from the roof: Rooftop snow removal is no one’s favorite task even if necessary. An expandable roof rake to reach up to the snow from the ground will help you out greatly. After particularly heavy snowfalls, remove snow to reduce the risk of ice dam formation.

● Installing Heat Cables: Especially for a home where the roof design has an increased chance of ice dams, heat cables or other roof de-icing systems can help. These systems move heat to the edges of the roof or other potential cold spots to prevent ice dams.

● Maintaining Gutters: Keep a watchful eye on your gutters and downspouts. Clearing them regularly is key to ensuring any snowmelt is safely draining from the rooftop.

Ice dams are one of the many ‘joys’ homeowners face in the winter. They can cause damage to several important areas of the home, but they can be prevented. Here at House Help, we hope that the causes and preventive measures above will help you protect your investment this winter. Keep the roof clear!

At House Help MN we understand the importance of a home and how big of a decision it is when it comes to buying or selling, and that not every situation is the same. That is why we follow a strict code of ethics and are transparent with everything we do. With 20 years in the real estate industry, we will walk you through multiple options and help you every step of the way. We will find a solution that is right for you and make the process quick and as easy as possible.


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