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Solutions to melt your roof's ice dams and your headaches away

Winter is around the corner, and if this year’s winter is anything like last year’s, some homeowners will have more to be worried about than just paying their heating bills and keeping warm. Ice dams were a prevalent problem last year due to the large amount of snowfall. If you ever look at homes while driving through your neighborhood during the winter, chances are you may notice some form of ice damming occurring on the roof edges of these homes. Ice dams are an accumulation of ice that forms at the edge of a roof. Ice dams are caused by snow accumulation melting on the upper portions of the roof, running down and meeting the colder section of the roof near the eave, then refreezing and daming up. The water gets trapped under the shingles, backs up and creates an ice dam. The ice dam will eventually melt, causing water to seep into the attic resulting in severe damage.Some of the damage can be easily observed by discolored walls. However, it’s what’s unnoticeable that will lead to heavy repair bills. Ice dams can cause damage to insulation, sheet rock, windows and more. Mitigating ice dams can be achieved in a number of ways. The first step would be to hire a professional. If you go with this route, make sure the attic is properly sealed to prevent heated air from entering the attic. The next steps would be to ventilate the attic and add insulation if necessary. Often these mitigating techniques are not successful due to roof designs or slopes. Other techniques may prove successful such as utilizing a snow rake to remove snow as it accumulates and before it thaws and refreezes. Caution must be taken so you don’t damage the shingles when using snow rakes. There are companies that provide services to remove ice dams with chemicals or other methods, but these methods could negatively affect your shingles and gutters. The costs will add up quickly if you hire a professional to continuously come out and remove snow or ice dams. A great solution for ice dams is installing a manual or automatic roof melt system. These roof melt systems – comprised of either electric cables or mats – are installed on the existing shingles or under the shingles on a new roof. Some people may question the use of electric energy to melt away ice dams. However, it may be the only solution to prevent ice dams from forming and causing structural damage to the house. This will cost thousands of dollars more to repair than operating an electric roof melt system for the winter months. Electric cable systems are installed on top of the existing shingles near the eaves and held in place with shingle clips. They are installed in a zig-zag pattern that will run the length of the eve. If there is a gutter installed, the cable is laid in the gutter and in the down spout. This way, the water will have a clear path to the ground. These electric roof melt cables are plugged into a ground fault interrupted circuit (GFCI) and operate on 120 volt AC power. The key is to either turn on the roof melt cable prior to snowfall or leave them on throughout the winter. Utilizing automatic controls can help with convenience and lower electric bills. The concern with roof melt cables is if they are not secured well to the shingle they can be pulled down with large snow run off or rain throughout the year. Additionally, if the cables were to touch each other they will short out and fail. A more energy efficient and discrete solution would be to utilize STEP Warmfloor for a roof melting system. This product can be installed under the shingles as opposed to over. These systems use a fraction of the energy that roof melt cables consume and provide you with peace of mind, as the product has never failed. The heating element is comprised of carbon black, which is implanted into a polymer. There is no electric element to short out and fail. The heating element is so unique that it draws less energy when the outside temperatures increase or when the sun contributes to heating the roof. Installing the product is simple because a roofing contractor can nail through shingles and directly into the STEP Warmfloor heating element without worrying about causing the element to fail or short out! These systems can also be installed under the valley as well as metal roofing.The STEP Warmfloor system also provides a payback in energy savings when compared to the less efficient electric roof melting cable systems.The only drawback to STEP Warmfloor systems is that it should be installed prior to laying shingles. So if you plan to re-roof your home, this system is by far the best solution to prevent ice dams from forming, thus potentially saving you thousands of dollars in repairs.