How to avoid ice dam hazards on Your Roof in Winter

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During the previous cold winter months, you might have run into issues with ice dams forming on your roof over and over again.

You tried to address them with do-it-yourself approaches but those did not go well. As a result of not knowing what to do, the ice dams continued to accumulate, and water began backing up, piercing through the roof deck and wreaking havoc on your walls, ceilings, and attic. The structural damage left you financially strained and concerned about next winter.

Don’t worry; in this simple guide, we explain how to avoid those winter ice dams before trouble starts.

If you are dealing with ice dam problems and see that you remove snow to no avail, reach out to Hotedge today. We understand the stress caused by an existing ice dam and the potential problems that it can generate within any home. We are here to help before an ice dam forms and implement our engineered solutions for a variety of roofs.

If you notice snow on the roof and see that it may affect your roof eaves, roof sheathing, or other matters, reach out to Hotedge today.

Ice Dams Explained

To prevent hazardous ice dams from forming on your roof, you first need to understand what exactly they are and how they form. Ice dams occur when the heat that usually rests inside the home ends up escaping and moving into the attic. When this happens, the roof decking is warmed by the heat. This heat and the heat from the sun can then melt the snow that lands on the roof. As the snow melts, it runs down to the eaves and refreezes. The melting and refreezing leads to ice dams, causing water to soak through your home. Ice dams accumulate on the eaves and the roof edge, with the worst forming from cold, heavy snow [1].

How to Prevent Ice Dams

Since ice dams are cyclic, the way out of the cycle is to remedy the reasons they begin to form in the first place. The heat from inside the home escapes, causing the outside snow to melt and then drip down into the eaves, leading to ice dams. Common sense would indicate that preventing heat from escaping the home is the first step to preventing ice dams. To accomplish this, we can keep our roofs cold by blocking the potentiality of heat leakages, adding thick layers of insulation to the attic floor and additional barriers that continually allow the heat to stay inside the living space. Using insulation, waterproofing methods, and ventilation, we can productively defend against ice dams before they occur. You can also add an ice and water seal underlayment to prevent future leakage by hiring a licensed contractor experienced with this kind of work. Ventilation and insulation can be added to the attic and should be improved upon if your home has poor attic insulation [1].

Gutters and R-Value Importance in Denver, CO

While it is not the gutters that directly cause ice dams but the thawing and refreezing process of water dripping down to the overhang, there are still plenty of ways that gutters contribute to ice dams. When gutters do fill with ice, the reaction is fascia, the bending of the gutter’s structure [1]. This process causes more leakage onto attic insulation. To prevent these issues, the best thing you can do is increase your R-value.

Your R-value impacts the amount of heat that stays and escapes from your living space. More heat is lost from lower R-values, increasing the risk of ice dams and leakages. To prevent these issues, increase your R-values by changing the insulation you are using. You want to increase the insulation R-value utilized in the attic space and improve ventilation to create greater barriers against heat trying to escape. In Denver, Colorado, the R-value for homes that use electric heat is R-49 (attic), R-22 (walls), R-19 (basement), and R-25 (floors). If you heat your home using natural gas, your attic should use R-49, your walls should use R-18, your basement should use R-11, and your floor should use R-25.

These recommendations have been established by the US Department of Energy based on the climate in Denver. Colder weather requires higher R-values [2].

Common Ineffective Solutions

Some people look for quick ways to resolve ice dams, and unfortunately, these methods are ineffective. Preventing ice dams sounds simple enough: remove the snow and ice, take away the leaking water. Although that is logical thinking, you are approaching the issue dangerously by using tools to chip away at the snow and ice. You don’t need to be risking the state of your roof (or your life) by hammering away. You may also end up causing more accidental damage to your roof, allowing for more water to drop in and corrode your walls, ceilings, and attic. You might also think that keeping your attic cool would help prevent ice dams from forming, but heat can escape from your lower living areas as well, so minimizing the heat in one spot is unlikely to have much of an effect [1].

Another thing people think will resolve the issues of ice dams is to use electric heat tape on shingles. The thinking is that the electric heat tape will prevent ice from forming. It takes much more electricity than tape can provide to prevent ice from forming. Shingles can also become brittle with constant exposure to the heat tape, and, with it, water has a greater chance of leaking through cable fasteners [1].

Things to Keep in Mind Before Ice Dams Form

When you go about waterproofing the underlayers of your home, be sure to do so before applying your roof shingles. The reason for this is that shingle underlayment does not play a role in the prevention of ice dam formations.

It can prevent water from soaking into the house, but it is not the first line of defense against ice dams. Additionally, as you prepare to install a new ventilation system, consider the methods known to be most effective for attic ventilation. Ultimately, how well-ventilated your attic is will make or break how easily water gets through.

The best ventilation systems use intake vents and exhaust ventilation in the most appropriate spots. Intake vents should rest in the eaves located in the lower parts of the attic, and the exhaust ventilation should sit higher in the attic by the edge. With the proper insulation and ventilation methods, you will reduce your chances of dealing with ice dams and the consequences they create for your attic and home. Lastly, consider your insulation based on modern energy standards. Homes built before 1980 are more likely to be poorly insulated and are potentially more susceptible to ice dams and their hazardous effects [1].

Make sure to have fiberglass insulation and that the level of insulation is proportionate to the build of your home and your location. Be extremely cautious when reviewing the state of your insulation with your contractor. Wear thick boots and gloves to avoid irritation when standing near fiberglass and wear a mask to prevent breathing in dust and debris [1]. Insulation levels are indicated by R-values, where the value after ‘R’ is equal to the resistance to the movement of heat. The higher the R-value, the more insulated your home will be [2].

Even if you don’t care about the visual effects of water damage, taking active steps to prevent ice dams is essential for your health as well as the health of anyone else that lives in your home. Unfortunately, as moisture enters your home, mold and mildew can increase, leading to respiratory issues. The air quality inside the house will suffer, negatively impacting your health as well.

You will be more susceptible to bacterial overgrowth with increased exposure to mold and mildew, leading to issues like eczema, leaky gut, yeast, and fungal infections. An overgrowth of these materials is incredibly toxic for infants, the elderly, and others with vulnerable immune systems. Added mold and mildew can also attract bug infestations, causing more discomfort and health concerns for those in your home. For these reasons, ice dams are just as much of a safety concern as lead paint; they should not be overlooked or minimized.

Preventing Ice Dams Is Our Specialty

Preventing ice dam hazards comes down to the right kind of insulation, the right amount of ventilation, and the order of operations that you have these changes made to your home.

We can’t prevent snow from hitting our roofs, but we can take active measures to prevent heat from escaping living spaces and causing the thaw/refreeze cycle of ice dams from occurring.

Remember to address these issues before the winter weather hits, and especially before a winter storm. Speak to a trusted contractor to work out arrangements for your ice dam prevention. Remember to complete those projects that enhance your R-values first to avoid as much heat loss as possible when the winter weather hits.

Our experts at Hotedge have been dealing with ice dam issues for a while and understand melted snow and the effects that it can have on your property. That is why we have dedicated a key portion of our time to dealing with ice dam issues, melting snow, roof surface matters, and other elements that deal with ice dam aspects.

We know that ice dam formation is quite scary and can have a deep impact on your roof surface and your property, from your exterior walls to your attic space and your gutter system. If you seek to minimize the harmful effects of snow on the roof and would like to mitigate ice dam damage on your entire roof, reach out to us at Hotedge today.

We are pleased to look at your metal gutters, the aspect of heat transfer, roof ventilation and other matters. At Hotedge, we bring our engineering solutions to roofs that range from composite Asphalt roofs to metal roofs and concrete roofs to minimize potential solid ice issues. Our roof ice melt systems have a profound positive effect on your home and can mitigate quite a bit of stress.

Contact Us today if you notice that ice accumulates and see ice dam forming issues regularly.


[1]. Fick, J. (2020, January 10). How to Prevent Ice Dams and Icicles. Fick Bros.

[2]. Top Rated Home Insulation Company Located in Denver. REenergizeCO. (2020, February 19). 


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