Preventing ice dams from forming should be the goal of any homeowner in a cold-weather climate.
Fortunately, there are quite a few things you can do when it comes to preventing ice dams from forming on your home.
Control your home’s temperature
Ice dams require certain temperature conditions in order to form, so it's to your benefit to prevent them from occurring. For starters, avoid heating your roof or attic. The heat emitted from a roof or attic can melt the snow on the roof, and that can help form an ice dam. Eliminating this heat waste is also a helpful energy saver that can lower your utility bills.
To prevent your home’s heat from leaking through the roof, inspect the attic's insulation. The same insulation that blocks cold air from coming into the home can stop warm air from reaching the roof. Your attic’s insulation should be 12 inches thick, though 15 to 20 inches is recommended if you live in an area with especially harsh winters.
This is also a good time to check your attic’s ventilation capabilities. They should let cold air enter the attic and let any warm air that enters escape — preferably rapidly. When warm air lingers in the attic, it can heat the roof and lead to the formation of ice dams.
Prevent extra, unnecessary sources of heat
Properly insulating your attic is the first and most important step to keeping your roof cool and preventing ice dams. Yet there are other things you can do when it comes to preventing ice dams from forming.
For starters, contact an HVAC professional and ask him or her to inspect your system. You should schedule this check-up every fall to make sure your furnace is ready for the winter and to ensure the system is ventilating properly. Furnace or bathroom vents that accidentally leak heat into the attic will only make ice-dam formation more likely.
You can also use this time to inspect any other openings to your attic, such as pipes or cable holes. Take the opportunity to apply caulk or sealant to these areas if necessary. This will prevent additional warm air from seeping into your attic, which can go a long way toward keeping your roof safe and dry for another winter season.
In the final post, learn what to do if you an ice dam still manages to form on your house.