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Ice Dam Prevention

Protecting your roof and home

Have you ever noticed a ridge of ice along the edge of your roof? These ridges may be ice dams, a relatively common occurrence that could cause damage to your home. Thankfully, ice dams on roofs are fairly preventable, particularly if you know what signs to look for. Learn what you can do to protect your home and prevent an ice dam from forming.

What are ice dams?

Ice dams are buildups of ice that push their way under your roofing. Three things are necessary for ice dams to form: snow or ice on your roof, temperatures that are dipping below freezing (32°F) and a warm roof. The areas of your roof that are warmed to temperatures above freezing will cause the snow or ice to melt and then refreeze as it reaches the colder roof edges. The ice can build up over time, forming a ridge of ice known as an ice dam.

What causes them?

Heat escaping your home through the roof is the most common cause of ice dams. As heat warms areas of your roof, the melting snow runs down the roof and can ultimately lead to the formation of ice dams.

The pitch of your roof may also determine its susceptibility for ice dams. Low or flat-pitched roofs don’t allow water to run off as easily as roofs with steeper pitches, making ice dams more likely.

Damage from ice dams

Interior damage

Roof/water leaks: As an ice dam builds up, water makes its way under the shingles on your roof. This may lead to water infiltration, causing damage to your ceilings, floors, insulation and walls.

Mold growth: If the interior water damage caused by the ice dams isn’t properly dried out, the area may be at risk for mold growth.

High energy bills

As mentioned, ice dams can lead to water infiltration in either the attic or behind the walls. The insulation in these areas can be damaged by water, which can reduce its effectiveness. Damaged insulation cannot properly maintain the flow of heat in your home, which may lead to higher energy bills.

Exterior damage

While ice dams don’t typically damage your roof, it’s possible for damage to occur. As ice dams form at the edge of the roof, your gutters and downspouts are at risk for damage. If unaddressed, the ice dam will continue to grow, and any additional snowfall on the roof will exacerbate the issue. (For more information, check out our article on how to prevent roof collapse.)

How to prevent ice dams

Ventilate your roof: Ice dam prevention starts with proper roof ventilation. The soffit vents in the eaves take in cool air and the roof vents exhaust warm air, working together to circulate cool air under your roof. 

Insulate your attic: Ensure you have adequate attic insulation and consider adding more. Insulation with a high R-value per inch is most efficient. Consider hiring a professional to insulate the light fixtures below the attic to minimize heat entering from your home.

Seal air leaks/cracks: Seal any cracks or gaps that may allow warm air to escape through your ceiling and warm your roof. Seal attic ducts, chimneys and fans to reduce heat entering from your home.

Clean and maintain gutters: It’s important to know how to safely clean your gutters. Clogged gutters will trap water that will freeze in cold temperatures, aiding in ice dam formation.

Install roof and gutter heat cables: Roof deicing cables are a great way to reduce the risk of ice dams. Deicing cables work to melt the ice around patches of snow, giving the water melting off of the snow a path to the gutters. Running the cable through your gutters can prevent the water inside from freezing, allowing for an unimpeded flow of water.

Remove accumulating snow: Remove the ice and snow from your roof and eaves. If you live in a one-story home, you could use a roof rake or broom to carefully remove the snow while standing on the ground.

Warning signs to look for

Here are signs to look for to determine if your roof is at risk for an ice dam:

  • Icicles appearing on the edge of your roof or behind the gutter.
  • Ice building up on the top of the gutters or lower edge of your roof.
  • Ice coming through the vents or seams in your soffit.
  • Interior water stains on your ceiling around the perimeter of your house.

Immediate steps to take

If you notice interior or exterior damage, there are steps you can take on your own to prevent any additional damage.

DIY methods and tools

  • Roof rakes or brooms can be used to remove snow from your roof. 
  • Interior water damage should be addressed immediately. Focus on cleaning up pools of standing water first, then move on to damp surfaces. Using a wet vacuum and dehumidifiers can also speed up the water damage cleanup process, as they’ll help clear wet rooms of excess moisture. Open all windows and doors to allow your home to ventilate naturally.

When to call professionals

For ice dam prevention or ice dam removal, it’s not recommended to climb on your roof and do the work yourself. If your roof isn’t accessible from the ground, it’s best to stay off the ladder and hire a snow removal company.

If you’re dealing with interior water damage, it’s important to make sure you thoroughly dry the affected area. If you lack the proper equipment or are unable to reach the entire area, you may want to hire water mitigation professionals. A water mitigation team will bring and set up drying equipment and remove any material that’s unable to be dried.

Ice dams and home insurance coverage

As ice dams are common and easily formed, you may be wondering if they’re covered under your homeowners policy. The good news is that damage to your home is typically covered. For example, if an ice dam causes water to enter the home and cause damage, those repairs are generally covered under your homeowners policy.

Depending on the type of policy you have, damage to your personal property may or may not be covered. It’s important to note that home insurance policies vary. It’s best to review the coverages on your policy and reach out to your insurance carrier if you have any questions.

Care and preparation

Because ice dam removal isn’t a simple process, ice dam prevention should be at the top of every homeowner’s winter checklist. If you can prevent ice dams from forming in the first place, you can save yourself the headache and expense of having to remove them later.

As an Amica policyholder, you have access to the Home Assistance Repair Program offered by Contractor Connection . If your home requires repairs from a covered loss, Contractor Connection can refer you to a licensed general contractor in your area.

Want to learn what sets Amica apart? Explore which type of home insurance you should consider to protect your home.

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