Of course the new snow covers up the ice and the melted snow that was running into the gutters is now solid ice and those pesky old ice sickles are hanging down all around the ends of the overhangs. I especially like the ones that hang down right in front of our entryway. Talk about safety issues.
Now that you know what causes the ice damming, the question is what can you do to prevent it and stop from getting leaks once it occurs.
The real key to prevention is to take steps a few months before the weather hits to help keep the leaks from getting into your home. There is no way to avoid it, you will have to spend some money to take the necessary precautions.
One of the biggest problems is inadequate ventilation in the attic. Here is the reason why. In the winter when the snow is building up on your roof, if the temperature inside the attic is 15 degrees or warmer then the outside temperature, the heat from the attic will melt the snow on the roof. Then when the snow turns to ice and the outside temperature goes down again, the ice freezes.
New snow then piles up on top of the ice and if the attic is warm enough, it begins to melt the ice, but the snow acts as a buffer and the water from the melting ice has no where to go and eventually finds it’s way into cracks and openings in your roof and then into your house.
So the first preventative step would be to add some type of ventilation to your roof to help the heat escape and keep the attic temperature always lower then the outside. Just take a drive around your neighborhood and you will see that some houses have the ice build up and other do not. That usually tells you which attics are properly ventilated and which ones are not.
You must also remember that for proper ventilation, the attic needs to breathe. That means air needs to circulate. That is why the soffits or overhangs on your home need to have vented panels installed so that air can enter into the attic through these panels and rise up and flow our through the attic and roof vents.
It is also a given that sufficient attic insulation plays a big part in making all this work correctly. Attic insulation acts as a buffer keeping the extreme heat of summer months and the extreme cold of winter months, in the attic and out of your living space. Making sure that you have properly installed insulation and an R value of about R-38, is critical when it comes to maintaining suitable heating and cooling in your home.
It is very important to note that improperly installed attic insulation that is blown or laid into the overhangs of the roof, will block the ventilated soffit panels and prevent the needed air circulation from taking place. So, whether you install the insulation yourself or have a professional install it, make sure it is installed correctly. For more information about attic ventilation, click on the following link.
Another thing that can really help prevent this problem is to install some sort of roof and gutter heating cables. These cables actually melt the snow and help keep the ice from forming and they also keep the gutters working to take the water away. They are readily available at most home improvement stores, roofing supply companies and online.
Other measures you can take that will help prevent leaking is to install ice and water shield in all the roof valleys and around the perimeter of your roof. This way if the ice starts to melt and water tries to run up your roof, it will have to run up at least 3′ before it can get to the roof sheathing since the ice and water shield is 3′ wide.
There are also roof rakes that will safely let you remove the snow from your roof. Plus there are products out there that will help you make channels in the snow that is on the roof that will help the water from the melting ice and snow flow off of the roof. There are actually things you can make up yourself to do this. You can check online find some of these products and check video sharing sites to find out how to make your own.
One last thing to keep in mind that sometimes even the best protection measures can be overcome by Mother Nature. When the whether is extremely bad, sometimes leaks can still get in. Hopefully by taking some or all of these measures, you can live leak free.