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How to Prevent Roof Ice Dams

10.16.2013 · Posted in Home Improvement

Proper Attic Insulation and Ventilation are Key to Preventing Roof Ice Dams

Each year tens of thousands of homeowners experience home and roof damage caused by ice dams. It’s a fact that in most cases ice dams, and their damaging effects, are totally preventable. With proper roof construction and attic insulation ice dams should rarely, if ever, occur. The first step in eliminating this potential risk to your home this winter is to inspect the roof and attic while the temperatures are still mild.

First check the attic and take a close look at the insulation in it. Make sure that you have adequate insulation in it, particularly along the attic floor. It is the attic floor insulation that prevents the warm moist air from the lower living areas from permeating up into the attic.

It is important to understand that the attic temperature should be kept as close as possible to the outdoor ambient temperature at all times throughout the year. If the attic is poorly insulated then the attic temperature will most likely be above freezing temperatures during the winter daylight hours even though the outside temperature may be well below freezing. When this situation occurs the roof sheathing warms and melts the underside of the blanket of snow laying on the roof.

The resulting snow melt drips down to the roof eaves where it then refreezes. After several days, or cycles of this occurring, the roof eaves begin to form significant ice dams. The ice dams then wind up pushing ice and water up underneath the roof shingles where the water then enters the attic and home. Besides water damage to the roof shingles and finished ceilings in the upper finished levels of the home, mold damage in the attic is another significant risk.

So again, to prevent roof ice dams first make sure that the attic is adequately and properly insulated. Check on the Department of Energy’s website to find out how much attic insulation is required for your climate region. Also, make sure you install the insulation properly. There should be no air gaps anywhere in the blanket of attic insulation. In particular pay close attention when inspecting the insulation around vent pipes and chimneys. Also make sure the bathroom exhaust fans are properly vented to the outside and not just into the attic.

Next inspect the soffit vents in the attic. Make sure they are not clogged by attic insulation. Similarly make sure the ridge vent or gable vents are not blocked in any way. The attic vents are critical for ensuring the attic temperature remains at outdoor ambient temperature.

The next step in preventing roof ice dams is to attach ice melt heating cables to the roof eaves. These work much better than having to use a roof rake after every snow storm. They also won’t damage your roof over time like roof rakes will. Ice melt heating cables are also easy to install and are very inexpensive.

By following these simple instructions you can prevent the risk of ice dams forming on your roof this coming winter.

About the Author: Over the past 25+ years Mark Donovan has been involved with building homes and home additions. For more information about Roof and Attic Construction, and DIY Home Remodeling and Repair visit and