Are You Prepared for Ice Dams this Winter

Are You Prepared for Ice Dams this Winter?

We recently went through a cold snap, commonly called a polar vortex. Records fell as the overnight lows dipped, which means we are heading into the season where ice dams become a concern for homeowners in the northeast. No, we are not referring to ice dams in a creek but rather the ones on your roof, and they can create an overwhelming experience for homeowners. Fortunately, there are measures you can take to prevent them.

What causes ice dams?

Ice dams occur when the heat inside the home escapes, causing snow to melt from underneath. Once the ice and snow on a roof melts, it trickles down to the roof edge and refreezes. The resulting refreeze creates a thick ridge of ice along the roof edge and in gutters.

Those icicles hanging from your gutters may look pretty, but as the snow continues to melt and refreeze, the usual pathways for water to drain – your gutters – close off, and that water finds other avenues of escape including routes into your home. Once the water finds its way inside, it can damage interior walls, ceilings, and insulation. All of which mean expensive repairs.

How can you prevent ice dams?

The first step is to check for proper insulation in your attic. Your attic should maintain a temperature of somewhere between 5° and 10°F warmer than the outside temperature. To ensure this, you will need adequate insulation to prevent heat from your living areas to escape into the attic area. Check the R-value of your insulation and ensure it’s the proper rating for our region in Pennsylvania and Maryland. The Department of Energy publishes a guide that walks you through the process. Additionally, it’s essential to make sure that light fixtures, chimneys, attic hatches, vent pipes, and exhaust fans are correctly sealed as each of these are common places for warm air to escape.

Ensure your attic has proper ventilation.  One primary place to check is your soffit vents. These are located under the eaves and ridge vents at the peak of your roof, and all combine to keep cool air circulating through your attic. Make sure these vents are clear from obstructions throughout the year and most importantly during the winter. If these become blocked, your roof will warm, and in turn, the resulting melting snow will lead to ice dams. The simplest way to check for blocked soffits is in your attic.

We advise doing a walk around your home. Areas to look are under the eaves. Soffit vents are installed underneath. Also inspect between your gutters and the side of your home. In most cases, you can see the ridge vent from inside your attic, and it looks like a gap in the wood sheathing covering your roof with a dark roofing fabric.

What to do if you see or suspect an issue

Soffit repair or adding additional soffit vents can be done yourself; however, most homeowners prefer to leave this type of work to an experienced contractor. When it comes to adding roof vents, this is definitely a job for a roofer. Bealing Roofing and Exteriors is a locally owned roofing company in Hanover, PA. We can help you with these necessary updates and repairs to ensure you don’t suffer costly damage from ice dams.