Hazardous winter weather conditions cause snow and ice to build up on top of your home. Along the eaves of your house, snow and ice collects causing ice dams. These ice dams—which are essentially large icicles–may be pretty to look at but they can wreak havoc on your roof. Ice dams can rip off shingles, break your gutters and lead to water damage inside your home. Taking preventative measures to rid your roof of these ice accumulations before they occur can mean you don’t have to do extensive repairs later.

How Ice Dams Cause Damage

Aside from the damage they cause to the exterior of your home, such as torn shingles and loosened gutters, the potential damage to the interior of your house is also significant. Moisture buildup and roofs don’t mix well, and these water-packed ice dams can lead to water leaking inside of your home beneath the shingles and underlayment. Moldy walls or flooring, stained and sagging ceilings or walls with peeling paint are just some of the issues created by interior water damage.

Image of ice dam formed on inset corner gutters roof of home

Root Causes Of Ice Dams

Ice dams form on top of your home when the outside temperature is colder than the temperature in your attic and there is a formulation of precipitation. This creates a situation where the snow on your roof melts and flows down the gutters only to refreeze and clog your gutters. In a cold-weather situation, this process can repeat itself multiple times leading to large and very heavy ice dams. When the ice become thick enough, the remaining water starts to flow beneath your shingles causing the internal damage referenced above. It’s best to take measures to prevent ice dams from forming in the first place before the problem gets out of hand. In order to do this, addressing the root causes of ice dams is the best strategy:

  • Unclog the gutters. If the gutters are clogged with twigs, leaves and debris, this can prevent water runoff. If the water has nowhere to go, it’s more likely that you will have ice buildup in the gutters.
  • Lack of attic insulation. If the attic is not well insulated, trapped heat escapes and causes snow and ice to repeatedly melt and refreeze on your roof and in the gutters. Investing in proper attic insulation can prevent ice dams from forming. It is a common misconception that ice damming is due to roof and gutter defects only. This is not true. Lack of insulation which causes heat loss in the attic is one of the most common causes of ice dams.
  • Letting snow build up on the roof. It’s best to take the time to rake snow off the roof before it can accumulate, melt, and form an ice dam.
gutters have frozen and icicles hang from the gutters

Eliminating Ice Dams

In addition to addressing the root causes listed above, these strategies may prevent ice dams from forming in the future:

  • Try a snow rake. Although not a full-proof method, a snow rake is an inexpensive purchase that can help prevent snow and ice accumulation. A long-handled rake on wheels can scrape the snow off the roof so that it lands on the ground instead of collecting on the roof. This also immediately changes the temperature of the roof which can prevent further accumulation. This process may need to be repeated multiple times, and it may be difficult to reach certain spots on the roof.
  • Purchase a deicer. Any nearby hardware store sells special calcium chloride deicers that help melt accumulating ice and snow. The downside is that it can damage nearby plants and trees. In addition, using the wrong kind of chemical can damage the roof and siding, so it’s best to avoid using sodium chloride or rock salt to melt the ice.
  • Purchase gutter heaters. Getting gutter heaters installed can be a good way to prevent ice dams from forming going forward. Many gutter heater systems are self-regulating, which means they don’t require regular maintenance and don’t waste energy.
  • Have a professional evaluate your gutters, roof and insulation. One of the best ways to prevent damage caused by harsh winter weather is to have an experienced contractor evaluate the condition of your insulation, roof and gutters. Properly-installed high-quality insulation is one of the best investments you can make in your home. It can save you money in the long-run and help prevent damage from both excess heat and winter precipitation. Gutters that are in good condition are more conducive to proper water drainage, so it’s best to make sure they are made of sturdy materials and free of damage. A roof that’s in good working condition is also less likely to sustain damage during winter storms.
Image of ice dam formed on gutters on the roof of a home

Alte Exteriors provides full residential roofing services throughout Central and Northern NJ. Our experts can evaluate your gutters, roofing and insulation and make recommendations for preventing damage from ice and snow. We are a trusted, second-generation, family-owned and operated New Jersey roofing company. Our clients trust us to accurately assess interior and exterior problems and recommend the best materials and methods for repairs. Contact Alte Exteriors today.