Chicagoland and Northwest Indiana has experienced measurable snow and massive icicles for going on two weeks. Though it might not seem so, ice dams are a big issue and could be telling you something about your home.
Homes in our area should have 16-20 inches of attic insulation so the air inside your home doesn’t heat up your roof, causing the snow to melt prematurely and damming your gutters.

Proper ventilation working on conjunction with the adequate insulation is a key factor to prevention. Our roofing systems should intake ventilation through the soffits and exhaust ventilation through the roof.

What Can Cause Ice Dams?

Here are the three main causes of ice dams:

  • Cold air accumulating at the lower part of the roof (the eave)
  • Warm air rising to the top of the roof
  • Snow accumulating on the roof and forming a heavy cover

When the three co-occur, ice dams can form rather quickly. The warm air at the top of the roof causes the snow cover to slowly melt. The excess water from the melted snow then flows to the eave of the roof. Since the air at the eave is colder, the water freezes once more, and an ice dam forms.

Why Are Ice Dams a Big Problem?

Apart from being potentially dangerous to any people passing near the roof, ice dams can also cause a lot of damage to your roof and home. They can damage your gutters and fascia, as well as cause water to accumulate in the shingles.

The water from the ice dams can damage your walls, drywall, and paint. Additionally, it can cause mold and mildew to form, which can escalate into a big problem down the line. Extreme cases of ice dams can even cause your home’s ceiling to fully collapse.

How Can You Prevent Ice Dams?

There is a simple solution to the problem of ice dams: proper attic ventilation. During the summer months, ventilation will prevent heat from accumulating in the attic and transferring to the living area. That will, in turn, keep your attic nice and cool.

During the winter, good ventilation can prevent the heat from the living areas from accumulating in the attic. There will be no moisture, and the attic will stay dry. Thus, ventilation will prevent ice dams or mold from forming altogether.

So, What Should You Do?

Firstly, install proper attic ventilation in your home. The most effective ventilation systems have evenly distributed ridge vents.

Secondly, make sure your attic has good insulation. Good insulation will prevent heat loss from the living areas and help you save money on energy.

Finally, it is best to use waterproofing shingle underlayment above the interior wall line (at least 2 inches above it). That will ensure you are fully safe if ice dams form anyway.

How Can You Remove Ice Dams?

When removing ice dams, safety comes first. Do not remove ice dams with an ice pick or an axe, as that could lead to serious injuries. The best thing to do is to prevent ice dams from forming in the first place.

You can do so by removing the snow that accumulates on your roof after a snowfall. Use a rake with wheels at the bottom, so you don’t damage your roof. If ice dams have already formed, it is best to call for a professional, as dealing with them yourself could lead to injuries and more damage to your home.