When Kansas snow hits each winter, ice dams are a familiar scene throughout most neighborhoods. An ice dam is a mass of ice that collects along the lower edge of a roofline where it overhangs the edge of a home. If you allow ice dams to form, they can cause serious and costly damage to your roofing, gutter system, exterior paint, insulation, interior drywall, ceilings, and more.
When it comes to ice dams, the best strategy is to prevent them from forming in the first place. Read on to discover the key to protecting your home from damaging ice dams.
Safeguard Your Home from Ice Dams this Winter
What is it that causes some homes to be burdened with ice dams covering their roof eaves, while other nearby homes don’t have even the slightest sign of ice dam troubles? How can you ensure that your home won’t incur damaging ice dams this winter?
What causes ice dams to form?
Ice dams form when there is snow on your home’s roof and the temperature is lower than 32 degrees. If your roof surface temp is above 32 degrees at its peak and below 32 degrees at its low end, ice dams form.
How ice dams cause damage to your home
It can get pretty cold in the Kansas City area each winter, and when it does, most homeowners crank the heat. When the heat rises, it can go through your ceiling and into your attic, causing your roof surface to warm up. Next, the snow that is on the warm part of your roof melts and flows down until it reaches the area of your roof that is frozen, causing the melted snow to refreeze into an ice dam.
Severe ice dams may weigh hundreds of pounds, compromising the structure of a home’s roof eaves. Even worse, they can cause water to seep up under roof shingles and make its way into your home. When water gets through your roof covering, it can make its way into your attic, soaking your home’s insulation and making it much less effective. Once water infiltrates your attic, it can seep into your ceiling and walls, causing costly damage including unhealthy mold.
Heavy ice dams can also damage your gutters and create a dangerous situation for anyone who walks below them.
How to Prevent Ice Dams
How do you protect your home exterior with ice dam prevention? One key is found in your attic. If the air in your attic is cold, it won’t melt the snow that is sitting on your roof, stopping the snow from turning into water that dams up and refreezes.
Key: Keep your attic cool enough to safeguard your home from damaging ice dams. How?
1. Increase attic ventilation
When your home has good attic ventilation, ice dams won’t form. Here’s how to make sure your attic stays cool:
- Add a soffit and ridge ventilation system.
- Add soffit or gable vents (for intake air) and multiple conventional roof vents (for exhaust air).
You can decrease the temperatures against your roof deck to prevent ice dams. By insulating, you prevent heat from rising up to your roof deck and causing the snow to melt.
Note: By looking at every possible way to prevent ice dams by increasing insulation, you’ll also lower your utility bills.
Where should you add insulation?
- Insulate the ceiling in your home below your attic.
- If you have an open attic, insulate its floor.
- If your finished second story’s ceiling is directly against your roof, insulate the rafter spaces.
- Seal gaps around your plumbing pipes and chimneys to keep heat from flowing into your attic.
3. Remove attic heat sources
There can be sources of heat in your attic that you don’t know about. For example, if you have outdated lights that extend into the floor of your attic (canned lighting), they can create a basis for heat in your attic. If your attic ventilation isn’t good, you may cause a damaging ice dam as a result.
The fix? Replace old lighting with modern recessed lighting that comes insulated to keep heat from emitting into your attic.
Other culprits of attic heat can be vents from your dryer, uninsulated HVAC ductwork, and improperly vented kitchen and bathroom exhaust fans.
4. Keep your gutters clean
Either have gutter guards installed to prevent debris from clogging your gutters or clean your gutters manually. Check your downspout to ensure it works properly.
5. Remove snow from your roof (from the ground)
Purchase a long-handled roof rake and safely remove snow from at least the lowest four feet of your roof. You can do this from the safety of the ground. Take special care not to harm roof shingles or remove dangerous icicles. And never go on your roof to remove snow.
What not to do if ice dams form on your roof
Don’t endanger yourself by climbing on your roof. It’s much too slippery, and therefore too risky to do. Don’t risk damaging your roof (or hurting yourself) by trying to remove ice dams with a shovel, hammer, rake, or any other random tool. And don’t use electric heat cables as they can cause your roof shingles to become brittle, shortening their lifespan.
Protect Your Home Exterior
Don’t be fooled by the storm chasers that come to our area. At Safe Harbor, we believe trust is earned. We’ve served thousands of homeowners in Kansas City and Shawnee, with great reviews to prove it. We want your home to last, so we use only the finest home exterior materials and install them with detailed precision.
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Learn more about our exterior remodeling services.