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What causes ice dams and what you can do to prevent them

An ice dam is an accumulation of ice that forms at the edge of a roof. These form when snow melts on the upper portions of a roof as a result of heated air escaping from the home and into the attic. When this melted snow meets the colder section of theroof near the edge, it refreezes and dams up. The water is then trapped under the shingles and backs up and creates an ice dam. The ice dam eventually melts and can seep into the attic, causing severe damage.

Some of the attic damage is easily observed in the form of discolored paint or walls. But it’s what is unnoticeable that will lead to heavy repair bills. Ice dams can cause damage to insulation, sheet rock, windows and more – and not all of this is visible on the exterior walls.

It is important to fix the problems related to ice dams before they cause major damage to the home. The first step of doing this is to hire a professional contractor that can mitigate the causes of why heated air is leaking into the attic. Oftentimes these small passageways can be sealed with caulking of spray foam to prevent heated air from entering the attic.

Any type of opening can cause heat to escape. One challenge with today’s homes is that they have many more recessed ceiling lights installed in them when compared to homes built twenty years ago. All these attic penetrations lead to more areas where heated air can escape into the space above. Although most codes require the use of insulated lighting, covering the crevices is not enough to stop all the heated air, along with the heat from the recessed lights, to leak into the attic space.

The next step is then to inspect the attic for proper ventilation. If you are unsure what ventilation requirements are needed for your home, check with your state’s Department of Commerce for proper guidelines. When your home was built it was most likely inspected to meet the local building codes. However, over time, insulation can cover the soffit vents that stop the attic from ventilating properly. . To solve this problem, hire a professional contractor to clear your vents, as they play an important role in allowing the air to move through the attic, which minimizes the buildup of heat that causes ice dams to form.

The final step in fixing ice dams is to inspect for adequate insulation levels. Most homes located in the northern United States require a minimum of 12 inches of insulation. Chances are if you have a home that is older than 20 years, you may want to consider adding insulation that will help minimize ice dams, as well as save on energy in the winter and summer.

Other techniques that may prove successful in ice dam removal includes using a snow rake to remove snow as it accumulates and before it thaws and refreezes. If one chooses to try this technique, caution must be taken into account so that shingles aren’t damaged. There are companies that provide services to remove ice dams with chemicals or other methods, but these techniques could impact the shingles and gutters in a negative way. Likewise, the costs will quickly add up when hiring a professional to continuously remove snow or ice dams and by that time, the damage may already be done as well.

After you have exhausted the previous steps to minimize ice dams, sometimes the only solution comes down to utilizing electric heat cables or mats to prevent ice dams from forming. With some cathedral and vaulted ceilings, air leakage and heated cables or mats become an excellent solution. has a couple of solutions that can solve your ice dam dilemma. We offer aesthetic ice dam solutions for both residential and commercial buildings.

Contact us today for more information.