What Are Ice Dams & How Can You Prevent Them?

Icicles On Gutters

Ice Dams can cause damage to the home in a variety of ways if left untreated.

As autumn draws to a close and temperatures continue to steadily drop in many areas around the country, homeowners must ready themselves for the oncoming snow and ice of the winter season. For homeowners in areas with colder climates, these preparations include stocking up on salt for the driveway, replacing broken snow shovels or tuning up snow blowers. For many, these preparations also include looking to avoid the formation of ice dams along the roofline. 

What is an Ice Dam anyway?

If you live in an area of the country with a more temperate climate, and experience snow and ice through the winter months, then you’ve seen your fair share of ice dams. You know, those beautiful cascades of glittering icicles hanging from the edges of roofs? Those are ice dams. 

Ice Dams on Gutters

Pretty as they are, Ice Dams can be a significant problem.

An ice dam is a build up of ice gathered along the roofline of a home that is formed when snow collects and builds up on your roof in below-freezing temperatures. Once this snow melts and slides down the roof due to the sun’s heat, a mixture of ice and water work it’s way beneath the shingles and into the home, causing expensive damage to the wood, sheetrock, insulation and more. 

The snow will naturally melt due to the sun, but the process is often sped up by heat loss from living spaces within the home, into the attic, a problem often associated with a lack of proper insulation and air sealing. 

What Can Ice Dams Do to the Home?

While icicles are certainly  beautiful, they are indicative of a serious underlying problem; a lack of proper insulation and air sealing within the home and attic. 

The greatest enemy to homeowners around the world is water. Seemingly a calm element, water is actually incredibly destructive in both it’s liquid and solid state. Ice, as it melts and freezes, can push with surprising force against the gutters and shingles, sometimes to the point of ripping the gutters from the roof entirely, and loosening or curling shingles. Snow melt, if unimpeded by shingles and with no proper way to drain from the roof, can cause damage not only to the roofing material, but also the structural components of the home, as it pours into the attic. Not to mention that moisture provides the perfect home for mold and mildew, which can seed and spread through a home incredibly quickly. 

How Can Proper Home Insulation Prevent Ice Dams?

While there are many products and procedures sold as the best way to prevent ice dams, here at Attic Systems, we know that the most reliable way to stop ice damming is through proper insulation and air sealing practices, carried out by an experienced professional. 

When a home is constructed, there are many gaps and cracks left behind, such as: 

  • Nail and Screw Holes

  • Plumbing & Electrical Penetrations

  • Around Chimneys and Vents

  • And more

Your attic, like any other part of the home, will have these gaps and cracks as well. These small holes can allow warm air from the living spaces to escape up into the attic, where it can slowly climb in temperature and begin to melt the snow and ice above. However, by using proper insulation and air sealing techniques, a home insulation contractor can quickly and effectively prevent the formation of ice dams. 

  • Expansive Foam Air Sealing

    Air Sealing fills gaps and cracks left over from construction that contribute to air loss.

    Air sealing is the practice of filling the many small gaps and cracks with an expansive foam insulation material. This insulation material, once injected into the gaps and cracks, fills them completely to stop air from escaping from living spaces and moving into cooler areas, and has the added benefit of being waterproof, providing some added security against snowmelt and rain.

  • Proper insulation practices are also a must to prevent ice dams. Using one of a variety of insulation materials such as cellulose, foam board, or spray foam a home insulation contractor is able to create a barrier between both the attic and the roof, and the attic and the living spaces below, effectively blocking the flow of air from living spaces, and acting as double insurance against ice dams and cold indoor temperatures. 

Cellulose Attic Insulation

Cellulose Insulation, when properly installed creates a thermal barrier between your living spaces and the attic.

Finding a Professional Home Insulation Contractor

Here at Attic Systems, we know the dangers that untreated ice dams can cause and our mission is to improve home comfort and safety for our valued customers. This is why we’re your local home insulation professionals. If you’re concerned about the formation of ice dams this winter season or are interested in learning more about our air sealing and insulation services, the experts here at Attic Systems are here for you. Reach out for your free, no obligation estimate today