Does your roof develop big sheets of icicles and large blocks of ice near its edges during the winter? While these ice formations may look pretty, they are not good for your roof. Known as ice dams, they can cause damage to your shingles and gutters, leading to leaks and premature roof deterioration. Don't ignore your ice dams this year. Here's how to prevent or get rid of them.
If you don't already have ice dams:
If your roof is currently ice dam-free but you know from previous years that they do tend to form, now is the time to take action. There are two ways to prevent ice dams from forming.
Add more insulation to your attic.
When you don't have enough insulation in your attic, heat escapes into the attic, warming the roof and causing the snow near the peak to melt. This water runs down to the edge of the roof, where it re-freezes to form ice dams. By adding more insulation to your attic, you can fix this problem. Use a calculator tool to determine how much insulation is recommended based on your zip code and home characteristics.
If your insulation is old, it may simply be time to replace it. Insulation can break down and compact over time, and this inhibits its ability to insulate your home.
Increase your roof ventilation.
Each roof should have vents, which let some warm air escape from the attic before it has a chance to significantly warm the roof. Poor ventilation contributes to ice dam formation. If you're confident that your attic is adequately insulated, then have a roofing contractor out to examine your vents and ensure you have enough of them for your roof. Adding additional roof vents is a fairly straight-forward job that will protect your roof from ice dams going forward.
If there are already ice dams on your roof…
You should still follow the steps above to improve your ventilation and insulation. This will stop the dams from getting any larger. In the meantime, you can also make a habit of raking the snow off of your roof to prevent the dams from getting any larger. When you have a warm day and the ice dams start to melt, see if you can use a long broom handle or other object to "poke" them off so they don't linger and cause damage all winter. Don't be too aggressive – you might damage the roof.
Ice dams are more than an annoyance. They are a threat to the integrity of your roof. If you currently have ice dams or have had them in the past, take action now to avoid having to deal with roofing leaks down the road.