Posted On: February 14, 2023

Homeowners Guide to Preventing Ice Dams in Gutters (2024)

Answer this for us: what makes for the perfect, picturesque winter scene? Is it snow falling lightly outside your window while you curl up with a warm cup of cocoa? Or maybe it’s the sound of children sledding in the distance while the sunlight sparkles through the collection of icicles on your roof—

Wait. Hold up. Did you say “yes” to the icicles? Well, then, hold onto your hat because we’ve got some bad news for you. As pretty as icicles may be, they can be a disaster for the unwitting homeowner.

Icicles are a classic sign of ice dams in your gutters. Whether you are:

  • An ice dam expert
  • An ice dam newbie
  • Don’t know what an ice dam is

We are here to help! We’ve done all the research into preventing ice dams in gutters for you. Read on to learn how to protect your gutters and your home.

What Is An Ice Dam?

close up of ice dams in gutters on brick home in icy winter

So, what exactly is an ice dam?

An ice dam is a chunk of ice that forms at the edge of your roof and creates a dam effect for the rest of your roof. Ice dams are formed when snow begins to melt on your roof and then refreezes on its way down. If left untreated, the ice dams will continue to grow.

Once the ice dam reaches a certain size, that melted snow will become trapped behind the ice dam, unfrozen. Homeowners will then be left with pooling water which can cause many problems down the line.

What Causes an Ice Dam?

Ice dams are caused by an extreme temperature difference between the roof of your home and the exterior air. Typically, this is due to poor insulation in your attic roof. The lack of insulation allows warm air from the inside of your home to escape through the roof.

As the warm attic air travels upward, it begins to melt snow on your roof. However, the roof edge is typically cooler than the rest of the roof. This leads the melted snow to freeze as it descends. Before you know it, you have an ice dam formation.

Dangers of Ice Dams

It’s just ice, though, right? How dangerous can it be?

Plenty dangerous if you are a homeowner. Ice dams aren’t just a nuisance to get rid of. They also can cause serious damage to your gutters, roof system, and even the interior of your home. Some of the dangers include:

  • Water Damage – The most common ice dam problem homeowners face is water damage. This is likely not too surprising, given that we’ve mentioned how water pools on the roof. If you have an ice dam, you might find leaks forming, as well as water stains on both the interior and exterior of your roof deck.
  • Rotting Roof Deck – All of that water pooling also means that it can seep underneath your shingles and rot your roof deck. In some severe cases, this could mean that you may have a full roof replacement in the future.
  • Falling Icicles – Icicles may be beautiful, but they can also be deadly. As temperatures warm up, icicles can fall without warning from your roof edge, which can pose a hazard to anyone who happens to be standing below.
  • Damaged Gutters – Ice dams are heavy. With all that extra weight hanging on to your roof, you are at risk of having your gutters pull completely away from the roof edge. Not only is this bad news for your gutter system, but it could potentially pull shingles off of the roof with it.

Guide to Ice Dam Removal

close-up of ice dam clogging gutters in need of prevention

By now, we bet that we have you pretty convinced. It’s time to kiss that ice dam goodbye!

But before you pull out a hammer and chisel, read this guide on how to properly remove ice dams from your gutters.

Do Not Chip

It can be tempting to grab a tool and start chipping away at your ice dams, but it is a bad idea! You could easily damage your gutters and shingles without knowing it, which will only cause more problems down the road.

Grab a Hose

Instead, grab a hose and a ladder! Connect your hose to a hot water tap and run the hose outside. You can then use the hot water to slowly melt your ice dams. This may take a while, but have patience.

Heated Wires

If ice dams are a routine problem for you, you could choose to install heated wires that are designed to get rid of ice dams. However, we recommend consulting with a roofing pro first, as recurring ice dams are usually indicative of a larger problem.

Ice Melt Chemicals

Some homeowners choose to use ice melt chemicals to prevent an ice dam from forming. Before you reach for the bag of salt, though, talk with your roofing contractor. Certain ice melt chemicals could be damaging to your roof and should only be used as a last resort.

How to Prevent Ice Dams

brick house with ice dams in gutters hanging over windows

Want to stop an ice dam from forming in the first place? Here are our top tips.

  • Add Insulation – A lack of attic insulation is typically why ice dams form. If you want to prevent ice dams, we recommend installing more insulation in your attic. This will help with ice dam prevention by stopping excess warm air from escaping through your roof.
  • Shovel – We highly recommend investing in a roof shovel. A roof shovel – also known as a roof rake – will allow you to safely remove snow from your roof before it melts.
  • Keep Gutters Clear – You have a higher probability of an ice dam forming in your gutters if your fail to keep them clean. Making sure that your gutters are free of twigs, leaves, and other debris will allow water to flow through normally instead of getting stuck and freezing.

The Best Way to Prevent Ice Dams in Gutters

Followed all of these tips, and still dealing with ice dam damage to your gutters and roof? Call on your local roofing contractors at Northface Construction to help. We have the expertise and tools that you need to keep your gutters ice-free all year long! Contact us today for a free quote!


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