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Winter Care: How to Prevent Ice Dams on Your Roof

Did you know that the fees for fixing roof damage can reach up to $7,000 for a major repair? That isn’t a cost you want to be caught off guard with. And unfortunately, ice dams can lead to major roof damage during the cold winter months.

Ice dams form when snow melt has nowhere to go but over your shingles, causing water damage and even leaks in your home if left unchecked. Consider yourself lucky if you\’ve never dealt with ice dams on a roof or any other sort of Wisconsin cold weather-related damage.

It\’s not all bad news, though. Fortunately, there are a few proactive measures you can take to help prevent these issues before they start. This quick guide will discuss how winter care for your roof system will help keep potential ice dam problems at bay. Let\’s get started!

What Is an Ice Dam?

Simply put, they\’re incredibly picturesque. But as one news outlet pointed out, despite how pretty ice on the roof might look, no Winter Wonderland postcard picture can make up for the potential thousands of dollars in damage these issues can cause.

An ice dam is essentially a ridge of ice that forms on a roof edge. It blocks melting snow from draining properly. If you\’re unlucky, the water that accumulates behind the ice dam can seep into your home and damage walls, ceilings, insulation, and other areas.

What Causes Ice Dams on a Roof?

The main cause of ice dams on the roof is non-uniform roof temperatures. Essentially, they form when it\’s really cold outside and the warm air inside your home rises.

For example, you might see an ice dam forming on your roof\’s edge if the higher portions of your roof\’s exterior surface are above 32 degrees, but the lower parts are below freezing.

That said, ice dams can\’t form unless you have snow on the roof in the first place, and it also needs to be cold enough outside for a portion of your roof to dip below freezing.

It\’s also important to note that it doesn\’t always have to do with exterior temperatures or the overall weather patterns in your area. Other sources of heat loss can lead to ice dams. This might include heat loss from your light fixtures into the attic space or even exhaust systems and chimneys.

Regardless, the effect is the same. As the top parts of the roof thaw out from heat loss inside your house, snowmelt will trickle down until it reaches the colder portion of your roof and freezes into ice dams. It usually happens little by little. However, they can form pretty quickly in colder states like Wisconsin, where winters are relentless.

How to Prevent Ice Damming

As mentioned above, you can take some preventative measures to avoid ice dams on your roof. As part of your routine winter roof care, consider implementing these precautions to ensure ice on the roof doesn\’t lead to roof damage or expensive leaks.

Roof Ventilation

Ensuring proper roof ventilation can go a long way in preventing ice dams from forming. Just to recap what we learned above, keeping roof temperatures uniform and consistent means less chance of snow building up excessively during the winter. This is where roof ventilation comes into play.

A roof with proper roof ventilation will benefit from better temperature regulation.

This applies to your roof in the summer just as much as it does in the winter. For example, your roof can dry out during the summer months with proper ventilation. This helps lessen the load on your roof as it tries to regulate the temperature during the cold, wet months.

Then, when it snows during the winter, your poor roof won\’t have to work as hard to regulate the temperature. Instead, it should have proper ways to ventilate the warm air building up inside your house.

Air Leakage

While roof ventilation helps keep roof temperatures even, it’s necessary to take other long-term measures to avoid ice dam formation completely. One such long-term measure to take is to prevent air leakage. If you live in a colder climate, air leakage can be a major contributor to the formation of ice dams.

To help prevent icy buildup during winter weather, you can first create an airtight seal between your house interior and attic space. Take the time to inspect air pathways such as air vents, chimneys, recessed canister lights, and other areas where air may escape.

Increasing the ceiling or roof insulation is also useful so less heat passes through by conduction. These steps will hopefully keep your home warm and free of troubling winter surprises.

Remove Snow

Finally, regularly remove snow from your roof whenever possible! After all, it\’s hard for ice dams to form if there isn\’t any snow or ice on your roof.

Some homeowners find a \”roof rake\” great for this task. However, you can also use more traditional methods, such as using a water hose to spray hot water onto the roof to create channels where the water can drain. This might not be as effective, but it\’s a great solution in instances where ice dams are quite large and unmanageable.

Other Winter Roof Maintenance Tips

Looking for a few other ways to prevent damage to your roof during winter?

To keep your roof in tip-top shape during winter, it\’s important to do regular winter roof maintenance checks. Start by inspecting both sides of your roof for any missing, damaged, or loose tiles or shingles, and replace anything in good condition.

Also, make sure to remove clogged gutters before the first freeze. Regularly check your gutters and clear them as often as possible (especially after severe weather) to prevent damage or other issues with ice dams.

Lastly, don\’t forget to regularly check for ice buildup around the edges of your roof and look out for water leaks caused by winter storms and snow melts.

Roofing Services in Wisconsin

You don\’t have to deal with the hassle of ice dams on your roof every winter. With a little preparation and care, you can ensure that winter won\’t be too hard on your home\’s roof.

When you find it\’s too difficult to keep up with proper roof care and maintenance, we\’re here to help. Our family-owned business is proud to be one of Wisconsin\’s most trusted roof maintenance and repair providers. Contact us today to discuss your roofing needs with our knowledgeable team members.

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