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How Do I Prevent Ice Dams on My Roof?

man in snow with snow in mustache and beard

Homeowners in Minnesota, or anywhere with significant snow, have to deal with the maintenance that comes with winter weather. This work includes trying to prevent ice dams from forming. While the kids may squeal at the arrival of snowy days, adults aren’t always so thrilled.

With the snow and ice come the many tasks and chores to keep everything working smoothly. There is shoveling, de-icing, cleaning off cars and windshields, and ensuring your house is safe. Guarding your home includes preventing ice dams on your roof. They can be an unfortunate fact of life when you live in a winter wonderland.

At Lake Region Insurance Agency, we have your back and your roof. We want to ensure your house has coverage for our Minnesota winters. Contact us today to find out more about homeowners insurance for your property.

What Are Ice Dams?

An ice dam works a lot like a beaver dam…but colder. It is a build-up of ice at the edge of a roof that creates a pool of water.

Ice dams can create tremendous damage to your roof and home when left untreated, so homeowners in cold climates must remain vigilant.

These blockages form when accumulated snow warms up at the top of the roof due to heat from the attic. The snowmelt flows down the roof and refreezes when it gets to the colder spots of the roof, forming the dam.

As more and more snow falls and melts, the ice dam grows, pooling more water on your roof. It also gets quite heavy.

Why Are Ice Dams Dangerous?

closeup of ice dam on roof and gutters

The description of an ice dam makes it sound rather benign. In actuality, these blockages pose a significant threat to your home and its occupants.

Ice dams can become a physical hazard for your family. This massive collection of ice could come loose and fall, hurting someone underneath or damaging property. Ice dams can weigh hundreds of pounds, so they are not something you want landing on you.

Your roof and home also are at considerable risk as ice dams build. Water backs up behind the blockade and can back up under your shingles. This water accumulation causes damage to your roof, allowing more water to drain into your house, causing huge problems for you as the homeowner.

The weight of the ice dams also can compromise the integrity of your roof. The eaves of your roof do not have the strength to withstand that much sustained pressure.

How Do I Prevent Ice Dams?

Since it is clear how dangerous ice dams can be, homeowners wonder how to prevent them. Avoiding these blockages could save you thousands and thousands of dollars in damage. Thankfully, there are some ways to prevent  ice dams from forming in the first place.

If your home has proper ventilation in the attic, ice dams are less likely to form. When the cold air from outside the house can circulate through the attic, the temperature of the roof remains below freezing during cold weather. This low temperature prohibits the snow from melting and forming ice dams.

man installing screws into unfinished ceiling

To improve ventilation in your attic, ensure air can continuously flow under the entire roof, from the soffit to the peak. There will need to be a channel or open layer of a couple of inches between the insulation and exterior. You do not want insulation blocking the airflow.

Insulating and Sealing

Another method to prevent ice dams from forming is to utilize proper insulation in your attic and ceiling. If your home has an attic, make sure the ceiling has enough insulation. If you don’t have an attic, completely insulate the rafters.

Adequate insulation will keep the warm temperatures in your home and the cold temperatures outside. Your roof will remain below freezing, preventing ice dams from forming. And as a bonus, you will save money on your heating bills.

Another critical step is to ensure that you seal all gaps and airways between your living spaces and the attic. Check all areas around plumbing, wiring, and chimneys to make sure no warm air is escaping into your attic.

Elbow Grease
You may also prevent ice dams by using some good old-fashioned elbow grease. Pay attention to your roof once the snow starts falling so that you can remove small blockages before they grow. Some homeowners invest in a good roof rake with a long handle to tackle the snow as it’s building up.

push broom cleaning snow off of roof with gutters full of ice

Typically, you can work from the ground to remove snow from the lowest four feet of your roof. Carefully scraping off the accumulation should prevent ice dams from forming. Check with your roofer on the best way to use the rake without damaging any shingles.

What Do I Do Once an Ice Dam Forms?

Although there is a lot you can do to avoid these blockades, preventative measures do not guarantee ice dams won’t form. Sometimes storms make it difficult or unsafe to remove snow build-up, and suddenly you are facing an ice dam.

If you see one forming, you can do a few things yourself at home. If the dam isn’t too large, try sprinkling calcium chloride or another de-icer on it to help it shrink.

Some homeowners choose to chip away at the ice carefully. You should never climb onto your roof to do this, however. Reach what you can with a ladder, and keep in mind that you don’t have to remove the entire blockage. Instead, focus on creating a channel for melted snow to flow through. You will need to repeat this method several times for it to be effective.

When in doubt, call a professional. Frequently, ice dams grow to the point that it is not practical or safe for you to handle it on your own.

We Can Help Protect Your Home

For all homeowners insurance needs, Lake Region Insurance Agency is your go-to team. Reach out today to find out how we can protect you with homeowners, auto, life, and health insurance.

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