Preventing Ice Dams

Why do icicles form on my house’s roof?

Icicles may seem like an inevitable result of snowy weather, but they are often a warning sign of a bigger problem. Icicles form when snow begins to melt and drip off your roof, creating liquid droplets that refreeze into icicles. This commonly happens on bitterly cold yet sunny winter days. The temperature change that creates icicles on your roof also causes ice dams, which can severely damage your roof and gutter, leading to water leaks and other issues. An ice dam forms when ice builds up on the edge of your roof and prevents the proper drainage of water and snow. 

How should I remove ice dams?

While prevention is the ideal long-term solution, it is often forgotten about until that first snowstorm hits, and urgent actions will need to be taken to remove an ice dam. If you find yourself in this position, removing the snow and ice from your roof using a retractable snow rake is the first step. Stand on the ground and use the rake to scrape the snow toward you, while being mindful of your safety and the avoiding damaging your roof.

If the snow rake fails to remove the ice buildup, set up a ladder next to your roof and use an ice pick to get rid of enough ice on your gutter to create a path for the snow to melt off your roof. You can also try spreading a chemical de-icer, which can be found at most hardware stores, on top of the ice buildup on your gutter. Similarly, distributing salt on the ice buildup may remove some of the snow and ice. If you expect temperatures to rise, spraying hot water on the ice buildup is another short-term solution, provided that the added water doesn’t refreeze and enlarge the ice dam.

These are short terms solutions to avoid water damage to your roof deck or exterior walls. These are not recommended for long-term solutions as they could damage the shingles of your roof and even cause a premature failure. 

How do you prevent ice dams on roofs? Does proper attic ventilation prevent ice dams?

While there are several short-term solutions that can temporarily remove ice dams, the long-term solution lies in effective prevention. Properly air sealing, insulating your attic is the best way to prevent the formation of ice dams.  Ice dams are caused by melting ice. The ice melts because it is being heating, it is being heated because the heat is leaving your home.

Air sealing your attic involves closing the chases and gaps to prevent warm air from rising and escaping into your attic. Caulk, spray foam insulation, and single part expanding foam are all used in air sealing techniques. Air sealing increases the energy efficiency of your home and can help your insulation and ventilation systems function more effectively. You should also ensure your attic is properly insulated to prevent heat loss. Cellulose blown in insulation is made of small pieces of recycled newspaper and other materials that fit more easily around objects, making it ideal for insulating the nooks and crannies of your attic. Air sealing and insulating prevent the heat of your living areas from escaping into your attic. This involves installing insulation in your attic floor and sealing air leaks in the ceilings of your living spaces.

In most cases, it is best to leave these practices up to licensed professionals, who can also perform an energy audit on your home and provide a comprehensive plan to safeguard your home from ice dams. Ecotelligent Homes is trained to effectively air seal, insulate, and ventilate your home and attic according to industry-leading practices, delivering great results for homeowners in Metro Detroit.