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Preventing Ice Dams

by VitalStorm Content on January 19, 2018

Ever marvel at those icicles that hang from rooftops after a winter storm? Those ice curtains may look majestic on a snowy morning, but they can also pose a significant risk to your home.

As it accumulates on your roof, this ice buildup burdens the structure with extra weight and prevents proper drainage. In worst-case scenarios, water begins to pool on the roof – a sure recipe for a leaky roof. Additionally, leaks caused by ice buildup often progress quickly thanks to the pressure caused by the rooftop reservoir.

The good news is that ice dams are almost always avoidable. Let’s take a look at common causes of rooftop ice buildup and what you can do to prevent it – from the experts at Blue Flame Heating & Air Conditioning.

Spot the Problem

Those icicles hanging from your rooftop are trying to tell you something about your home. These icicles form as heat from your roof melts snow. The snowmelt trickles downward, but refreezes on the cold outer edge of the roof. If you’re seeing them regularly, ice curtains often indicate that your attic is too hot. This occurs when too much heat from the interior of the home rises into the attic (meaning you’re not only paying to heat the living quarters, but also that uninhabited attic space).

The Answer Lies Within

Though some methods for fixing ice buildup on the roof focus on exterior solutions, the best solution is often found inside your home by preventing warm air from making its way into your attic. There are several causes of attic overheating, and it’s a good idea to have an HVAC professional assess your situation to determine the cause. Some of the most common causes and solutions include:

  • Poor insulation, specifically in the ceiling, is a common cause of attic overheating. This problem is often solved by applying additional insulation in the ceiling.
  • Poor ventilation between the attic space and living space can both draw warm air into the attic and trap it up there. This problem is sometimes solved by the use of a ventilation fan.
  • HVAC ducts are leaking warm air into the attic. These leaks are making your HVAC system work overtime. They’re also costing you money. Identify any leaks and fix them.

Don’t Tackle It Head-On

Rooftop ice buildup can be an issue for homes in most regions of the U.S., but some areas are particularly vulnerable to ice dam formations. If you live in an area that is susceptible to heavy snow and rapidly fluctuating temperatures, stay on the lookout for ice and snow accumulation.

If you must manually remove snow or ice from your roof, keep the following tips in mind:

  • Don’t attempt to walk on the roof in icy conditions. This should be obvious to most of us, but it bears repeating: A steep incline covered in ice or snow could be very dangerous to walk on.
  • Consider the slope. Roofs with flatter slopes won’t drain snowmelt as quickly as steeper roof grades, allowing water more time to freeze before it clears the roof.
  • Don’t knock it off. Your first instinct might be to grab something and start chipping away at the roof. This could damage the roof.
  • Seek a specialist, or at least special tools. Hire a professional or buy a broom made specially to remove snow from roofs. These snow brooms allow the user to remain on the ground while sweeping the snow off the roof.

Whether you decide to hire a professional or tackle the issue on your own, find and fix the underlying cause of ice buildup on your roof. Clearing snow or ice manually from the roof provides a temporary fix, but it won’t do much to fix what is—most often—a home energy efficiency issue. Call Blue Flame Heating & Air Conditioning at 206-388-5667 if you need professional assistance with ice dams.