How to Prevent Ice Dams
Have you ever wondered why some homes get ice dams and others don't? Have you seen that house that has an enormous amount of snow on the roof and not a single icicle? The house looks like a big lemon meringue pie. The snow is as thick at the peak of the roof as it is at the edges. That is a house that is perfectly insulated, ventilated and all the gaps going through the roof are sealed. The house is also designed properly. This is how every house should be built. If your house gets icicles and ice dams, you have a problem with one or several areas of insulation, ventilation or unsealed air gaps.
A home has to be well insulated to keep the heat in the living space. Not only will this help in preventing ice dams, it will lower your utility bills.
Once you have done the best that can be done to insulate your home, your home has to be properly ventilated. It is impossible and unhealthy to keep all of the air and heat in your living space from escaping. For healthy air, there has to be some air exchanging going on to prevent mold, mildew and health problems. The heat in your attic must be completely pulled out and the temperature in your attic has to be similar in temperature as the outside air. If it is not, heat will rise to the peak of your roof, melt the snow which then drips to the cold edge of your roof where it freezes and an ice dam forms. As it continues to snow, the snow at the peak will again melt and the process repeats. Your ice dams will continue to grow and eventually back up under your shingles.
Gaps must be sealed
Just as important at insulation and ventilation, sealed air gaps reduce the amount of heat lost from your living spaces into your attic. Gaps around electrical conduit, canister lights, ceiling light boxes, kitchen and bathroom fans, plumbing stacks, fireplace and water heater chimneys, etc. must be sealed to prevent heat from escaping to your attic. Properly and safely sealing these gaps will keep the heat where it belongs.
Is the last piece of the puzzle. It is also the piece that may be impossible or too expensive to fix. Homes in neighborhoods built in the 1940s and earlier generally were not designed with insulation or ventilation as a priority. Attic spaces included bedrooms and living spaces. To prevent ice from forming, there must be enough space between a living space and the roof to allow the attic space to be the same temperature as the outside air. If the roof is unable to be properly ventilated to prevent the snow from melting and refreezing, then snow must be removed to prevent ice dams from forming. The best step forward is to have a "Home Energy Audit" performed to determine your trouble areas. This includes infrared pictures that show you where your home is leaking warm air. By pinpointing problems areas, you can focus on those areas to reduce your home heating bills and reduce or eliminate potential ice dams.
Roof Snow Removal
If the home has been ventilated, insulated and the gaps have been properly sealed, but ice dams are still forming, there are 2 options to prevent ice dams: heat cables and/or roof snow removal.
Can be targeted to trouble areas. Homes that have been insulated and ventilated may have a spot or spots that have ice dam problems. This may also be a spot where it is difficult or nearly impossible to roof rake. Heat cables can be installed. When it comes to heat cables, buy and install the best that money can buy. When hiring a contractor to do the work, make sure they are reputable, have years of experience and stand behind their work with some guarantee. RTD Ice Dam Removal frequently removes ice dams from roofs with heat cables that weren't functioning or that weren't turned on when needed. The best heat cables have a thermostat that turn on when needed. Frequently home owners are out of town or forget to turn on the heat cables when they're needed. Heat cables must be maintained each fall to make sure they will work properly when needed.
Refers specifically to a tool that has a thin plastic (preferred) blade/shovel and a long handle that allows the operator to remove snow from the ground. Roof rakes can also be used from a ladder. They are designed to pull snow off the bottom 3 to 6 feet of a roof. They are not intended to remove all the snow from a roof. Also, roof rakes only work immediately after a snow fall. If the roof snow has gone through a thaw freeze cycle (one sunny day) the snow will have melted and refrozen and will be difficult, if not impossible, to remove with a roof rake. When it comes to roof raking, remove the snow from the problem areas within several hours of the snow event.
Roof snow removal
Refers to removing most or all of the snow from a roof. This means shoveling or, in some cases, snow blowing the roof. Safety is the biggest factor when removing all of the snow from a roof. It is dangerous work. Fall protection must be in place. Every year people die from falling off their roof trying to remove snow and ice. Professionals have the equipment and the experience to remove the snow safely. When hiring a professional, be sure to get a copy of their Workers' Comp and liability insurance certificate. If someone falls off your roof and they don't have the proper insurance, you the homeowner will be sued. Similar to roof raking, the sooner the snow can be removed from the roof the quicker and therefore cheaper it will be to remove fluffy snow versus icy snow. To protect the shingles from damage a plastic, not metal, shovel should be used. If snow blowing will be the method of snow removal for a flat roof, a small snow blower with rubber paddles should be used. Removing the snow without someone getting hurt and the roof from being damaged must be the top priorities.