Preventing Ice Dams

With multiple back-to-back snow storms and record-breaking snowfall, it may be difficult to keep the snow from piling up on your roof, but these conditions can lead to ice dams, which can cause extensive water damage to the interior of your home.

Ice dams are mainly caused by an overly warm attic. When warm air leaks into the attic, it leads to snow and ice melt on your roof. The water drains into the overhang, where it freezes and builds up.

Energy Star provides a useful checklist, at  for preventing ice dams. They prescribe the following actions:

  • Don’t get on your roof to solve this problem, it could be dangerous.
  • Avoid standing on the ground and “chipping away” at the ice. Not only could this cause damage to your roof, but you can be seriously injured by falling ice, debris, or tools.
  • Contacting a roofing contractor to fix your roof leak will not prevent future ice dams.
  • Seal air leaks (Home Sealing) and sealing duct air leaks in your attic to stop warm air leakage (the source of the problem).
  • After sealing leaks, add additional insulation in your attic.
  • Provide adequate attic ventilation so that the underside of the roof and outside air are at the same temperature. Check to make sure attic insulation is not blocking roof ventilation.
  • Clean leaves and other debris from gutters before the first snow. This will help prevent ice build-up in gutters.
  • Hire a contractor who is an energy specialist or specializes in air sealing to do an in-home evaluation. A good specialist will use diagnostic equipment to evaluate the performance of your home and generate a customized list of improvements.
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