3 min read

What is an Ice Dam? (How to Prevent Ice Dams)

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In the winter season, there are all kinds of risks to your roof system. Hail could damage your shingles, snow could weigh down your gutters if they aren’t cleaned out, and perhaps worst of all, your roof could deal with an ice dam.

Ice dams sound bad and are. They can be difficult to get rid of, and can cause a load of damage to the edges of your roof if they stick around too long.

But what exactly are ice dams?

In this blog, we’ll go over what an ice dam is, what causes them, what problems they can create, and how you can prevent them!

Let’s get started!

What is an Ice Dam?

An ice dam is a section or ridge of ice on the edge of your roof, that is preventing snow and water from flowing down to your gutters and off your roof. Essentially, it’s exactly as it sounds, a dam of ice.

ice dam diagram

Ice dams are more common in the more northern, snowier parts of the country, but since large snowfalls do happen in North Carolina, so too does ice damming. If you see icicles forming on the edge of your gutters and roof, that is likely a sign that an ice dam might be forming.

What Causes Ice Dams?

Ice dams form as a result of snow or ice on a roof melting, before freezing as it reaches the edge of a roof. That snow melt typically happens because of an improperly ventilated attic, which retains too much heat, melting the snow from underneath. As that melt travels to the edge of your roof, it will cool again and refreeze if the outside temperature is low enough.

There, that ice will continue to remain cold until the air temperature around it rises enough to melt everything, and the snow on the rest of the roof will to melt, run down to the dam, and freeze to it, making it larger, or become trapped behind it. Both of these outcomes can cause some serious problems.

What Problems do Ice Dams Create?

There are several different problems created by an ice dam, and all of them spell trouble. The water stuck behind the dam can find its way through and weak points in your roof, creating a roof leak. If the dam gets to be too big, the weight of it can bend and even break down your gutters and soffits, which can cause severe damage to your home.

Those leaks would also cause loads of damage to your roof’s decking, and home’s structure in your attic, which can be a pain to deal with, and create additional costs during an inevitable roof replacement.

How do you Prevent Ice Dams in the Short Term?

Clean Out Your Gutters

One of the ways that you can help reduce the chance of an ice dam forming is by making sure that your gutters are cleaned out during the winter season, and before a winter storm. If your gutters are clogged and not allowing for proper water flow, then the water stuck there will surely freeze and back up onto your roof, creating the ice damming problems that we have been discussing.

Keeping your gutters clean isn’t just helpful for ice dams, as having clean gutters can help prevent several other roofing problems, including leaks, and soffit damage.


Remove Snow From Your Roof

Another step you can take is to remove snow from your roof before it has the chance to melt, either by brushing, blowing or melting it off yourself. We don’t typically recommend this option, as during cold weather, your shingles can become very stiff and brittle, and are much more susceptible to damage.

Please keep in mind that as with any kind of weather, your roof can become dangerous to navigate during icy conditions. In these circumstances, it’s a much better idea to call a professional company that has experience performing this service, as they will be equipped to properly get rid of snow and ice dams.

Why is there Snow in my Attic_WebP

What are Long Term Solutions for Ice Dams?

The best way to ensure your home’s long-term security from ice dams is to make sure that your attic is properly ventilated. If your attic doesn’t have enough airflow, it will hold too much heat, causing for the roof surface above it to remain too hot, and melt the snow on it, starting the ice dam formation process.

In order to prevent this from happening, find a roofing contractor to calculate the proper ventilation needed for your home, and find out if the ventilation you currently have is enough to meet your attic’s needs.

Want to Prevent Your Roof from Getting Ice Dams?

If you want to know how to prevent ice dams, reach out to a local, trusted roofing contractor so you can figure out what your best option is.

If you’re in the Raleigh area, reach out to us using the “Contact Us” button below! On Tops Roofing has been serving the Raleigh area for over 30 years, so whatever your roofing project requires, we are happy to help!

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