Ice dams are those thick slabs of ice that form at the edges of your roof. They perilously hang over the eaves, threatening to slide off and collide with the front end of your car or worse: land on a member of your family. The damage they cause to your gutters, to the deck of your roof and to anything indoors under the roof - be it carpet or furniture - is heartbreaking enough on its own. Here are four ways to keep dangerous ice dams at bay to protect your gutters and more.
1) Inspect your attic's insulation.
Ice dams form because warm air from your attic heats the snow closest to the roof. This water then trickles down under the roof's snow pack, ending up near the eaves where built up snow and ice in gutters or on eaves can allow the water to pool. When the temperature is cold enough, this water re-freezes and forms ice at the edges of the roof. Over time, the built up ice grows thick and heavy and becomes a dam that holds more and more water.
Keep this from happening by not heating your attic. Conduct a thorough inspection of your attic and insulate it as completely as possible from the heated living area of your home.
2) Ventilate the attic passively or with a powered attic fan.
Since the attic should be the same temperature as the outside air to avoid thawing the snow on your roof, once you have insulated the attic, ventilate it.
A ridge line vent coupled with soffit vents can keep cold air flowing up under the roof in the attic.
Or install a thermostatically controlled attic vent that kicks on when the temperature hits 32°F. It will pull frozen air through the attic very effectively.
3) Have heating elements installed on the roof.
There are various types of heating elements that can be placed on your roof, applied from the edges of eaves to as high up on the roof as ice dams are likely to form on your particular home. They can be placed along valleys in more complex roofing schemes.
Some are cables looped and laid over shingles. Other types are flat, wide, wired tapes that unroll and are fastened under the first few courses of shingles.
These systems involve installing junction boxes and sensors, so they're a bit more complicated than the mechanical approaches above, but in areas where ice dams are a severe problem, the heating elements can add an extra measure of security.
4) Have an ice dam buster's number on speed dial.
If an ice dam becomes a hazard to life, limb and property, call in the professionals. Ice dam removal teams use hot, pressurized steam and water to quickly melt away accumulated roof ice. If ice dams are a problem for you every year and you've done nothing about it, make sure you have the number to their team like Rainbow Gutter Co in your phone book.
Take steps to end ice dam problems before they begin. Your gutters will thank you. And maybe your noggin will thank you, too.