What Causes Ice Dams and How to Prevent Them

Although icicles may look nice hanging off your house, they are a warning sign for potential problems. The same conditions that allow icicles to form also lead to ice dams. An ice dam is a ridge of ice that forms at the edge of a roof and prevents melting snow from draining off the roof. The water that is trapped by the ice dam can eventually leak into a home and cause damage to walls, ceilings, insulation, and other areas.

What causes ice dams?

First, heat collects in the attic and warms the roof – except at the eaves. Then, snow melts on the warm roof and the water flows down to meet the cold eaves and freezes. Lastly, ice builds up along the eaves, forming a dam. The warm roof continues to melt the snow, and water gets trapped behind the newly formed dam. This sitting water seeps into the interior of the attic and affects the walls, ceiling, and insulation.

How do I prevent ice dams?

  • It’s important to keep the entire roof at the same temperature as the eaves to prevent the formation of ice dams. This is possible by increasing ventilation, adding insulation, and sealing air leaks that could warm the underside of the roof. This is a long-term action that helps to reduce the chance of a dam forming.
  • Clean the gutters out before snow starts to fall. Clogged gutters only create more blockage as the water cannot flow away freely. Clear out the dirt, leaves, and debris from gutters safely.
  • Install heat cables when all else fails. Heat cables are high-resistance wires that you mount on the roof edge in a zigzag pattern and plug into an outdoor GFCI receptacle. They’re ideal in spots where ice dams regularly occur and can’t be stopped any other way. Make sure to run the cable inside the gutters and downspout, too, to prevent the water from refreezing.
  • If there is snowfall and it’s safe to do so, remove the snow from the roof. “Roof rakes” and brooms can be used to remove snow from single-story homes. Any higher and snow removal is best done by a professional. While this can protect your property from an ice dam, it should be your last resort.

Protect your home from ice damage with these tips. For help finding the right home insurance in Connecticut, contact the independent insurance professionals at North American Underwriters. Serving New Britain, Bristol, Farmington, Plainville, and all of Connecticut; we will work with you to ensure you have the right amount of protection for your specific situation, all at the right price.