When you think of a winter wonderland, icicles hanging from the eaves of a home may come to mind. While pretty to look at, these icicles are the results of an ice dam - which can cause damage to your roof and gutters. But not to worry, there are some steps you can take to keep ice dams at bay this winter.

What is an Ice Dam

Ice dams happen when snow - even as little as an inch or two - melts and then refreezes, creating a wall of ice along the eaves of your home. As snow continues to melt, the ice dam causes water to pool and, in some cases, creates roof leaks.

One of the culprits is a poorly insulated roof, which causes snow to melt on the upper portion of the roof, and then causing it to refreeze when it reaches the eaves.

Another is snow that's allowed to pile up on the roof. The snow acts as an insulator. The lower layer melts while the top layer remains.

"Every inch of snow that accumulates on the roof’s surface insulates the roof deck a little more, trapping more indoor heat beneath the roof deck and warming the roof sheathing," according to UMass Amherst's  Building and Construction Technology website. 

How to Prevent Ice Dams

There are several ways to avoid ice dams. Perhaps the most simple is to clear the snow from your roof. You can easily do this with a roof rake, though take care to not damage your roof. 

You can also get to the real root of the problem and keep the snow from melting unevenly by increasing ventilation, adding insulation, and sealing off every possible air leak. 

This Old House recommends you:

  • Ventilate Eaves and Ridge
  • Cap the Attic Hatch
  • Exhaust to the Outside
  • Add Insulation
  • Replace Recessed Lighting with Sealed Can Lights
  • Flash Around Chimneys
  • Seal and Insulate Ducts
  • Caulk Penetrations

For more valuable information on buying, selling, and maintaining a home, check out the Kazantzis Real Estate blog.