29 Jul 2016
Ice Dams Blog Post Featured Image - Northshore Exteriors, LLC (frozen branch background)

It’s always a good time to discuss ice.
When it comes to your roof, an ounce of prevention beats a pound of repairs. Specifically, we’re talking about ice dams. The best way to deal with them is to prevent them. So what is an ice dam, and how do I prevent it? We’re glad you asked.

What is an ice dam?

Ice Dam Illustration - Northsore Exteriors, LLC (image via Certainteed)

Image Credit: Certainteed (A Supplier We Love)

Ice dams are the result of heat from your home warming the roof decking in winter. They’re most noticeable in late winter/early spring when the outside temperature swings back and forth. The ambient solar heat combines with the heat escaping from inside the home. This melts and refreezes the snow on your roof begins to build up as ice.

Not only can this ice build-up create a safety hazard with thick ice and icicles, but can damage your home. In addition to a damaged roof and gutters, water that penetrates a damaged roof can cause problems with attics, ceilings, and even walls. All of which can create a great condition for mold.

How to protect against it?

Attic Insulation and ventilation are your first line of defense against ice dams. By preventing and removing heat from your attic you may not only save on your energy bills but totally remove the underlying problem that starts the ice dams.

The last line of defense against ice dams is to have a good quality waterproof underlayment. This is especially critical here in Northern Michigan. As the name suggests, underlayment is installed under your shingles and prevents leaks if your roof is damaged or compromised (from hail, wind, ice, etc).

What else?

  • Clean your gutters or making sure they’ve got debris protection. Debris can cause water to back up and jump-start the ice dam process.
  • Have an inspection to determine if you need upgrades to insulation and ventilation.
  • Remove snow from your roof as appropriate. This protects not only against ice dams but keeps down the load weight on your roof.
  • Heat cables and tape. They’re really more of a band-aid than a fix. In the short run, they can provide a little extra protection for areas of your roof that are more susceptible to weight or ice dam concerns – but long-term they tend to be expensive to install, maintain and operate. They’re also not nearly as effective as a well-installed roof with proper insulation and ventilation.
  • Especially If you’re limited to insulation and venting by design, consider replacing canister lights that are incandescent or halogen with an LED bulb that generates virtually no heat.

When is the right time to consider prevention?
As strange as it sounds, the warmest months are a great time to start thinking about ice dams. For most Americans, fall starts getting even busier and it’s more likely to drop off your radar. But the truth is if you want to get a professional in to inspect, or you need some remediation on your roof or attic – you want enough lead time to get your project wrapped up before the snow flies.