Top 15 Ice Dam Prevention and Removal Products, plus Costs

Homeowners know that unsightly ice dams are what often follows a major snowstorm and onset of low temperatures.

The resulting damage from ice dams to the roof and the rest of the house can easily cost thousands of dollars, especially if the snow is allowed to remain on the affected roof for a long time. 🙁

What Causes Ice Dams?

When the snow falls onto your roof, it can melt when it comes into contact with warmer surfaces of the roof. — This happens when the warm air and heat escapes from your home through the attic floor and rises up to the peak of the roof, which is what causes the melting of the snow.

attic-insulation-and-ventilation Source: Sunshine Contracting

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When the melted water reaches the colder eaves of the roof, it refreezes forming a wall of ice, which blocks the runoff of the rest of melted snow.

Thus, the melted water has no where to runoff but to rise up underneath the shingles, which is how it can get inside your home, damaging not only the roof shingles in the process, but also causing major long-term damage to the walls and insulation in your abode. 🙁

Understanding the Extent of the Damage Caused by Ice Dams:

You’ll see gutters torn and damaged, shingles that are broken and falling off, and even paint that’s peeling. What you may not see is the underlying damage to the deck and in the attic including wet insulation, which can become moldy, damaged sheet-rock in the walls, and major wood and plaster rotting issues.

As you can guess, preventing ice dams in the first place, or removing them as quickly as possible is essential for the well being of your property. 😉


With so many ice melting and snow removal products on the market, here is a look at the top fifteen preventive measures:

Preventive Measures:

  1. Snow Rake – It’s important to remove snow from your roof before it has the time to melt and refreeze. At the same time, you have to be careful not to damage the shingles that lie underneath. They often come with rollers along the bottom to prevent damage to the roof when you’re removing the snow. Some snow rakes feature a metal rod to help cut snow when it has hardened and make the removal easier.

Upfront Expense: An average cost of snow rakes is between $50 and $100, which is an affordable option for most property owners.

snow-rakes-ice-dams-removal

Pros: easy DIY project, inexpensive

Cons: Must get on a ladder every time there’s a major snowstorm

  1. Ice Melting Heat Cables – This product is one of the most popular options for preventing ice dams, however it does not make it the best long-term option. You must access onto the roof eaves in order to install the cables. It’s recommended to place them in a zigzag pattern along the lower edge of the roof as well as near the gutters. Many homeowners hire a contractor to do the work, but it is possible to do it yourself, if you are comfortable with working at heights and using the ladder.

Upfront Expense: The price for heat cables may range from $50 to $100, plus the cost of installation, which can be significant if you hire a specialist. In fact, you can expect to pay anywhere from $1,000 to $2,500 for a professional installation of a self-regulating ice-melting heating-cable system.

ice-melting-cables

Pros: effective when installed correctly

Cons: doesn’t prevent ice dams, just creates a run-off for water. may require hiring a professional electrician to ensure the installation is carried out in a safe manner. Cables must be manually turned on or set on a timer.


  1. Blown-in Attic Insulation – Preventing heat loss in the attic to improve energy efficiency is only one reason to increase the amount of insulation you have. Blown-in insulation is the easiest method, and a straightforward process for DIY homeowners. You just have to purchase the insulation and rent a machine to blow it in.

Upfront Expense: The cost depends on how much square footage you’re covering, but it can average around $700 to $800 for 1,000 square feet. If you choose to go this route, make sure you leave the soffit vents unblocked!

Pros: effective for preventing heat loss, inexpensive and easy to install

Cons: none

  1. Ventilation Upgrade – Poor ventilation is the cause of many issues with heat loss and ice dams. Certain types of roofs are more susceptible to this problem, but it can be fixed by bringing your attic’s ventilation to an adequate level. The type of vent needed will depend on the exact situation, but you may need a ridge vent, if your roof has soffit vents, or soffit repairs for blocked soffit intakes. — This can sometimes be the unintentional result of poorly-done attic floor insulation. You’ll have to consult a professional to properly remedy any major attic ventilation issues.

Upfront Expense: Expect to pay between $1,500 and $2,000 for a new ridge vent, or several hundred dollars to re-open the soffit vents if they are blocked.

Pros: permanent resolution

Cons: more expensive, must be done by a professional, only partially solves the problem

  1. Ice Belt Metal Panels – Many roofs are made of shingles, which work well to remove water until it starts to travel upward. To take a more pro-active approach in preventing ice dams, you can install ice belt metal panels, which are installed along the eaves to block water. They are often made of aluminum and sold in short panels of about three to four feet in length. You would need to remove a few rows of shingles from the eaves of the roof in order to install the ice belt metal panels.

Upfront Expense: The cost is about $45 to $70 per linear foot of ice belt metal panels installed. If you choose to go this route, it’s best to install them before you put a new roof on, but it can be done at any point as long as your asphalt roof is still in good shape.

copper-ice-belt Source: Melanson


Pros: doesn’t require an electrician to install, no ongoing expenses

Cons: ice-belt metal panels are rather expensive to install and will likely require hiring a professional installer such as a roofing company with access to sheet metal fabrication shop

  1. Metal Roof – Solve all of your ice dam problems with a new metal roof. While this isn’t a cheap solution, it does offer long-term benefits. Metal tiles or shingle are an option along with the continuous standing seam panels.

Upfront Expense: A typical new metal roof can cost between $10,000 to $25,000, depending on the size and location of your property. The cost will be higher for larger, steeper, and more complex roofs.

Pros: energy-efficient and cost-efficient, long-term solution, solves the problem of ice dams

Cons: expensive, requires professional installation

  1. Integrated Heating/Ice Melting Panels – This professional-grade product will last for a long time, but they are expensive to buy and install. They can add quite a bit to your monthly utility costs, because they are plugged into an electrical source. This solution is mainly for those homes which have not had much success with other methods or if you want a long-term system and you aren’t worried about ongoing costs.

Upfront Expense: Average price is $20 or more per foot for these systems, plus the cost of installation. You may consider a system such as the one offered by HotEdge to melt snow on roof edges, valleys and along the gutter and downspouts.

Note: Lifetime total cost can range widely because of the monthly electricity costs. Expect to spend thousands of dollars over the lifetime of the product.

HotEdge-HotShingleLOK


Pros: effective, protects the roof

Cons: expensive, requires professional installation and must be set on a timer or turned on to work

  1. Caulk to Seal Air Leaks – A simple, but effective fix for some of the warm leak issues. Caulk can be applied around vent pipes and electrical cables to prevent warm air from escaping.

Upfront Expense: The product itself is rather inexpensive, costing less than $5 a tube.

Pros: inexpensive, DIY project

Cons: Only takes care of specific areas. It may be difficult to locate all the sources of warm air leaks without the help of professional. The attic space must also be adequately insulated and ventilated in order for air leak sealing to really make a decisive difference.

  1. Chimney Flashing – Another vulnerable area for ice dams is around the chimney. Purchasing flashing to cover the area where the stones or bricks meet the roof will help prevent ice dams from forming. L-shaped flashing made of steel can be installed by a homeowner or a roofer.

Upfront Expense: Expect to pay just a few hundred dollars if you hire a pro. Do it on your own, and costs will range from $20 to $350.

chimney-flashing Source: Runyon and Sons Roofing

Pros: inexpensive even if you go the route of hiring a professional

Cons: only takes care of water leaking in one area

  1. Water Repellent Membrane / Ice and Water Shield – This product will not prevent ice dams from happening, but it will help minimize the damage by shielding the roof deck. When installing a new roof or replacing the old one, consider adding a water repellent membrane such as Ice and Water Shield underneath the shingles. This added layer prevents water from getting inside your home when the ice and snow melt.

Upfront Expense: The cost of this membrane is added in to the total cost of installing a new roof, which can range from $5,000 to $8,000.

Pros: effective at preventing water damage

Cons: expensive, can only be installed with a new roof

  1. Insulated Caps – Covering heat sources to prevent them from allowing heat into the attic can be an effective way to prevent ice dams. Some common concerns include the attic fan and openings for folding stairs.

Upfront Expense: Insulated caps can cost less than $100 and are often something you can install yourself.

Pros: inexpensive, takes care of specific areas

Cons: will require other methods to resolve the entire problem of ice dams

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Estimating Roof Pitch & Determining Suitable Roof Types – DIY Guide

So it’s time for a new roof, or perhaps you are planning a new home construction project and are considering what your new roof should look like. Surely, you have heard about all the exciting new roofing materials available today and are eager to get started.

roof pitch expressed in degrees

However, before you can make the call on what to put on the roof, you need to know the pitch or slope of the roof! 😉

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Why It’s Important

The roof pitch is necessary for two things – one, estimating the amount of material to be ordered for the job and two, knowing what materials are suited for the roof. But, again we are jumping ahead of ourselves. Before we get started with all that we need to find out the pitch of a roof.

What is a roof pitch?

roof-slopes

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Pitch, angle, incline, slope – they all can be used to refer to the steepness of a roof. In the roofing trade the go-to term is “pitch” and it is expressed in terms of “12 inches.” So the pitch of a roof is determined by how many inches the slope rises for every 12 inches it runs horizontally.

If a roof increases in height by four inches for every foot of horizontal run, it is considered to have a “4-in-12 pitch” or just a “4 pitch.” Talk in terms of pitches and you will always be understood in the roofing universe. 😉

Measuring a roof pitch

Ideally you will have safe access to your roof from inside the building. If not you will need to make your measurement from on top of the roof itself or at the edge of the roof with a ladder.

The tools required will be a contractor’s level at least 24 inches long and a tape measure.

Place the butt end of the level against the edge of the roof and extend it into the air, balancing it until it becomes level. At that point measure down from the exposed butt end back to the roof surface.

Divide the results by the number of 12-inch segments in your level. For example, if you used a 24-inch level and your measurement was 12 inches the pitch in your roof is 6-in-12.

You can also estimate a roof pitch by eyeballing it from the ground from the gable side with a level and ruler.

If for some reason you have absolutely no access to basic tools you can guesstimate the pitch of a roof by knowing that clapboards generally present four inches of exposed face and a dollar bill is six inches.

So you can count the clapboards from the low end of the roof to the peak and use a dollar bill to figure out your stride and pace off the the size of the building. Then make your mathematical calculations.

Using roof pitch to order materials

Once you know the width and length of the space to be covered you can apply the roof pitch to determine exactly how much roofing material to order without leaving yourself short or wasting money with overages. To do that requires basic geometry but fret not, you can just refer to tables that are standard in the industry:

Multipliers used for estimating roof area based on slope:

0 pitch – 1.00X the roof area. Since this is a flat roof or nearly flat roof. You can go by the measurements taken by walking the roof.

1 pitch – 1.01
2 pitch – 1.02
3 pitch – 1.03
4 pitch – 1.05
5 pitch – 1.085
6 pitch – 1.12
7 pitch – 1.16
8 pitch – 1.21
9 pitch – 1.25
10 pitch – 1.31
11 pitch – 1.36
12 pitch – 1.42

Roof Pitch Expressed in Degrees:

roof pitch expressed in degrees

12 pitch = 45 degrees
11 pitch = 42.5 degrees
10 pitch = 40 degrees
9 pitch = 37 degrees
8 pitch = 33.75 degrees
7 pitch = 30.5 degrees
6 pitch = 26.5 degrees
5 pitch = 22.5 degrees
4 pitch = 18.5 degrees
3 pitch = 14 degrees
2 pitch = 9.5 degrees
1 pitch = 4.5 degrees
0 pitch = 0 degrees

How Roof Pitch Manifests Itself in Various Roof Types

Roof Types Diagram

Roof shapes have evolved through history in different regions of the world from flat to steeply pitched. Here are some of the common shapes that top roofs today:

Flat roofs are common with industrial buildings boasting wide roof spans and are also popular in dry climates for houses where there is no need for the roof to help disperse rain and snow. Even in these arid regions so-called “flat roofs” are still installed with a slight pitch to keep water from pooling on top of the structure.

A mono-pitched roof runs from a taller wall to a wall of lesser height to produce a slope. This is often a configuration seen on simple shed buildings.

Saw-tooth roofs can often be seen on old-school factories that were constructed with a series of mono-pitched roofs that are used to allow sunlight to filter down to the shop floor.

Pent roof is a collection of low mono-pitched roofs often seen on residential terraces.

A gable roof is a traditional triangle-shaped roof that can range from a medium pitch to sharp angled roofs.

A-frame roof is the sharpest gable-style roof resembling the shape of the letter-A. It is a traditional roof shape employed everywhere from tropical huts to Nordic ski chalets.

Asian-style roofs: The influences of Asian architecture have infiltrated American shores in recent years. Gracefully sloping roofs are often of medium pitch which emphasize the horizontal spread of the buildings.

Hipped roofs: These distinctive roofs with overhanging eaves feature four medium pitched sides and are characteristic of Dutch architecture and help disperse snow loads in northern climates. Hipped roofs are often used in complex roof formations with the “hips” facing different directions.

Saltbox roofs: The workhorse of Colonial America, the familiar saltbox is a building that features a long, pitched roof on one side, similar to the lid on a salt storage box. Their attractiveness traces to the desire to make a two-story building function as a one-story building to reduce the tax bill. The large expanse of such a roof will cause greater expense to cover.

A mansard roof, in opposition to a salt box, offers the utility of a full half-room on the upper floor rather than an attic. It features tow pitches, one a shallow pitch atop a steeper slope.

Pyramidal roofs: Sometimes seen on square buildings, a tented or pyramidal roof, feature four slopes rising to a peak. These are often steeply pitched roofs.

Gambrel roofs: Popular with barns and other structures that create additional interior room, these stepped roofs feature a short steep, non-walkable slope before rising more gently to a ridge peak.

Clerestory roofs: Another popular form for factories requiring light infiltration, the clerestory features long, low-pitched roofs before the building rises to a traditional gabled section atop the structure.

Conical roofs: A staple of Queen Anne Victorian architecture these conical towers were topped with dunce-cap roofs that are too steep to be walked on.

Arched roofs: Seen on utility structures there are several types of medium-pitched roofs that feature curves from gentle arches to bows and barrels.

Circular roofs: These full arched roofs can be anything from domes to decorative Byzantine-inspired onion domes. Domed roofs can be low-pitched or fully circular.

Pros and cons of various roof slopes

Low pitch roofs are easier to install and safer to walk around to complete repairs and maintenance. This is fortunate since flat roofs are somewhat more prone to leaks and require frequent inspections.

Low-pitch roofs are seldom used in regions of severe weather due to the stress of snow accumulation on roofs of structures.

Flat roofs can be significantly cheaper to install than a pitched roof, but they will often require more maintenance. Flat roofs are popular in regions of sparse rainfall and are favored by modern architects in contemporary designs.

Medium-pitched roofs come in a variety of styles and provide help with dispersing snow and rainfall while still being able to be inspected and repaired by the average homeowner by walking around the surface.

High-pitch, non-walkable roofs are dynamic and present an exciting appearance, but they are more expensive to install, and repairs will be left to roofing contractors with all the necessary safety equipment.


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Top 10 Causes of Roof Leaks – How to Find and Fix Common Roof Leaks

They are the two most dreaded words in a homeowner’s vocabulary: a leaky roof. Water is the most insidious foe, eager to penetrate your home covering’s most vulnerable defenses. And once inside, the damage and destruction may be taking place far from the point of the initial attack, making the initial source of a roof leak difficult to identify.

a handy woman on the roof The best homeowner defense is vigilance and fast action. Maybe a new roof is in the near future and it seems like a folly to bother with a leak. However, even a small, out-of-the-way drip in a house that seems like nothing more than an inconvenience is a major repair bill waiting to happen!

Did you know? Roof leaks can ruin insulation, become a breeding ground for black mold, damage interior ceilings and walls, and rot the wooden framing.

So, let’s look at the ten of the most common culprits in causing your roof to leak and what you can – and should – do about them (other than recruiting a bucket brigade):

1. Villain: Age

an-old-asphalt-roof

Roofing materials, especially asphalt shingles, get old and tired. Expansion and contraction with the change in temperatures cause aging roof protection to turn brittle and eventually crack. Years of harsh rays from direct sunlight can melt the tar that holds composition shingles together.

Father Time has not lost a battle yet and when roofing materials run up against their life expectancy, it will be time to budget for a new roof at the first sign of a leak.

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2. Villain: Brick Chimneys

leaking-chimney Source: Roof.net

Have you ever seen house ruins from 200 years ago? The chimney is often the only thing standing. While brick chimneys may seem indestructible, the mortar that binds the bricks together is nothing more than a hard-working mixture of water, sand, and cement.

Exposed to the weather elements, the mortar can erode and crumble over time. Check the mud cap on top of the chimney for deterioration and inspect the mortared joints where the chimney enters the roof. If patches are required, it is a cheap and quick fix.

3. Villain: Flashing

chimney-flashing Source: Runyon and Sons Roofing

Speaking of chimneys, compromised flashing is a common problem on a roof. Flashing are thin strips of metal installed at danger points for leaks around a roof. For a chimney, they are bent at a 90-degree angle to attach to both the roofing material and the brick chimney.

Flashing needs to be properly sealed to protect against water intrusion. It also needs to remain nailed in place and even if that is all squared away, the metal can rust or crack.

Expect the cost of replacing old flashing to run several hundred dollars per major penetration like chimney, depending on the job size and desired material (aluminum, lead, copper, steel, etc.). Although it may be tempting to marshal the forces of caulking and roof cement in the battle against faulty flashing, this would be only a temporary solution best reserved for situations where you know the roof will soon be replaced.

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