Preventing Ice Dams in Iowa

ice damYou’d think we wouldn’t have to talk about snow , sub-zero temps, school closings or freezing pipes right now in the Cedar Rapids area, but the reality is, we still do. And one of the most damaging things going on in many homes right now are ice dams – you’ve seen them  …. homes with lots of icicles hanging off the roof.

Ice dams are typically caused by uneven heat loss from your home in wintry conditions such as snow, heat melting the snow, and cold temperatures re-freezing melted snow. The heat is typically caused by inadequate attic insulation or from warm air seeping into the attic from living spaces below. This causes the roof to warm above freezing temperature, which allows snow to melt and then re-freeze before it reaches the roof’s edge. If this cycle repeats over and over, an ice dam forms and water collects behind it. As the water pools, it backs up under your roofing material and can cause expensive water damage.

Note: This video really shows what makes up an ice dam. I don’t personally endorse the product, I suggest contacting a contractor to see what they would recommend you do to your roof to prevent an ice dam.

Preventing the formation of ice dams:

  • Keep your home’s attic well ventilated. According to the Department of Energy, one square foot of free ventilation opening is recommended for every 150 square feet of attic space.
  • Seal air leaks to prevent warm air leakage from plumbing vents, junction boxes from ceiling fixtures and attic hatches.
  • Keep the attic floor well insulated (between 16 and 22 inches of insulation) to minimize the amount of heat rising into the attic from below.
  • Clean leaves and other debris from gutters before the first snow. This will help prevent ice buildup in your gutters. Also consider using an ice shield under your shingles when your house is getting re-roofed.
  • Use a roof rake to clear the snow above the gutter. Clear as much as three to four feet above the gutter to allow water to drain freely into the gutter.
  • Consider hiring an energy specialist to evaluate the performance of your home, and recommend some things you can do to minimize energy waste.

Safety First

During cold, winter months, the icicles on your home’s eaves may be a sign that a ridge of ice is forming at the edge of the roof. This ridge, also known as an ice dam, can prevent melting snow from draining properly. If an ice dam forms, sprinkle a melting compound to break it up.

Avoid using traditional “rock salt,” as it may cause further damage and faster deterioration of your gutters.

**The information above is for informational purposes only and is not intended as professional advice.

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