Winter snows may be pretty and serene, but they bring with them a not-so-lovely side effect: ice. While shoveling and salting may work for your driveway and walkways, your roof is at risk for ice dams, which result in damage that may have you wishing for a year-round warmer climate. Still, a little prevention not only ice-proofs your roof, but can save you money on those winter energy bills.

Ice damming happens when heat escapes from your home, warming your attic space and the roof above it. The flakes piled on the roof from that picturesque snowfall melt when they meet with the warmed roof; the water runs down to the eaves, or edge, of the roof, where it’s still cold because it’s not directly over the warmed attic; and the water freezes, since the temperature of the eaves is lower. The cycle starts again with each new snow, continuing to build up a wall of ice and producing a recurrent puddle of water. It may look like a snow globe outside your window, but up on the roof, the melted water can back up under your roof’s shingles – which are made only to shed water – and make its way inside your house.
Your roof, insulation and sheet rock are all susceptible to damage when this happens: When it’s wet, sheet rock can expand, dry out, crack and if it gets too wet it may completely fall down. Insulation gets packed down, allowing even more warm air to escape from your attic and exacerbating the problem – not to mention increasing the risk of mold and other problems that happen when water leaks inside a home.

Since the issue is in the roof’s eaves and gutters, experts recommend – and building codes require – installing an ice shield along that area, between 36 and 72 inches up your roof. This protects the roof from ice dams, and prevents water from coming in the house as it melts and puddles up. Still, while it’s a good preventative measure, experts at Malcarne recommend treating the root of the problem as well.

Keeping your roof ice-free is simple: It’s all about good insulation and air sealing. The main reason why ice dams occur is because heated air is leaving the living quarters of the house. By sealing up any gaps, cracks and holes between the ceiling and the attic floor and making sure your insulation is adequate, heat won’t be able to escape from your home as easily – and will stay away from warming that roof.

An added bonus? Proper insulation saves you money on your utility bill – and while a professional needs to install ice shields, you can tackle the task of insulating, keeping your heat where you’re paying for it to be.
So enjoy that next snowfall, but take precautions to keep it and all its icy glory outside, where it belongs.