Category Archives: Ice Dam Prevention

How to Prevent Ice Dams: DIY Guide to Stopping Ice Dams

Are you bracing for the upcoming blizzard that has already ravaged parts of Midwest and other parts of the country? If you are in NYC, Hartford, Boston, or other parts of the Northeast, a major snowstorm has probably just dropped some 12 to 18 inches of heavy snow on your roof! Is your roof ready to handle all that heavy snow, and more importantly, what’s going to follow next? We are talking about those pesky, unsightly ice dams that can damage your roof and put a major whole in your pocket! 😉

if the roof over your home has experienced ice dams or snow related damage during the last major snowstorm, then it’s a ripe time to take action and rid your home of ice dams, once and for all! Our No Nonsense Ice Dam Prevention Guide will help you understand how the ice dams form and how to stop them in their tracks. 😉

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Ice dams can often form on a roof after a heavy snowstorm followed by the onset of low temperatures. Ice dams form when snow at a peak of the roof begins to melt (usually due to warm air rising up in the attic and warming up the top of the roof), which causes all the melted water run down the slope of the roof until it refreezes, as it reaches the colder surfaces at the eaves (the edges, or overhangs of the roof.) of your roof.

Ice dams can cause some very costly water damage to your roof deck, attic space, insulation, interior walls, and ceilings. When an ice dam forms at the eave of your roof, it literally blocks off melted water from running down and causes it to rise up underneath the roof shingles thereby penetrating inside your home. The water will generally rise up faster on the roofs with lower roof slope. The damage caused by ice dam built up can be very costly. You may have to replace any wet insulation, damaged dry walls and ceilings, remove mold, and replace rotten wood in your home. It is obviously, much easier, and far less costly to stop ice dams before they happen!

How do ice dams form?

attic-insulation-and-ventilation

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Before you can prevent ice dams from forming on your roof, you need to understand the mechanism behind the ice dam formation. In the winter, your roof gets covered with snow, which is pretty normal. Ideally, this snow would eventually evaporate in the sun, as often happens in the case of roofs on abandoned homes and empty buildings.

Whenever there is snow accumulated on your roof, warm air from inside of your home rises up into the attic space. Once in the attic, the warm air continuous to rise up until it reaches the top or peak of the roof. It is then that the roof surface starts to warm up, which also starts melting of the snow on top of the roof. Consequently, and water formed by the melting of the snow runs down the surface of the roof underneath the snow-pack. When the melted water reaches that colder area of the roof, it refreezes forming a wall of ice.

This wall of ice is called an ice dam. The ice dam traps melted water, and eventually, it causes the melted water to rise up underneath the shingles, which allows it to get inside your house and cause extensive water damage to your property. This damage may not be immediately apparent, as water gets absorbed by insulation in your attic space, insulation in between the wall cavities, and finally, dry walls, plaster and ceilings.

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Potential Damages to Keep in Mind

The insulation that has been exposed to water gets wet and can no longer insulate your home properly. Any wet insulation needs to be replaced. The damages to dry walls, and rotten wood will also require replacing. If you do not take prompt measures, then a mold growth can occur behind your walls without you even knowing about it!

How to Stop Ice Dams

Because it is the warm air that makes its way into the attic space and causes the snow on top of the roof to melt, we need to find a way to insulate the attic space and keep it cool in order to stop ice dams from forming. The goal is to have a cool attic space with the temperature at or below 30° F.

ice-dam-formation


There are two ways to keep your attic space cool; insulation, and ventilation. You will find that most older homes do not have sufficient levels of insulation. Many of the older homes do not have an adequate ventilation, either.

Attic insulation requirements

For most homes located within a snow belt zone, a minimum attic insulation level equivalent of R – 49 is required in order to provide sufficient level of installation for your home. Most homes built before the 1980s will not have sufficient levels of attic insulation, nor will they have sufficient levels of wall insulation for that matter.

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Top 15 Ice Dam Prevention and Removal Products, plus Costs

We just has a major snowstorm hit NYC, Boston, and much of the Northeast. Many 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. 🙁

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What Does an Ice Dam Damage Entail?

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. 😉

What Causes Ice Dams

attic-insulation-and-ventilation Source: Sunshine Contracting

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In order to know what preventive measures to take to protect your dwelling, it’s helpful to understand how the ice dams form; When the snow falls onto your roof, it can melt when it comes into contact with warmer surfaces of the roof. This may happen 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. 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 your shingles, but also causing major long-term damage. 🙁


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. Average cost 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. 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. It also prevents ice dams. 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. The cost depends on how much square footage you’re covering, but it averages 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 with 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. 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. The cost is about $45 to $70 per linear foot, 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. This option requires professional installation and will cost $10,000 to $25,000 or more, but it takes care of the issue for many years.

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. Pricing ranges widely because of the monthly electricity costs, so expect to spend thousands of dollars over the lifetime of the product. 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.

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. Another benefit is that this product is 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. 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. 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. These items 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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