Contrary to common belief, ice dams are not formed on your roof from your gutter, though ice dams can cause extensive damage to gutters. Ice dams are formed when the temperature of your roof goes above 32 degrees Fahrenheit, typically caused by a warm attic. At this higher temperature, the warm attic air melts the snow on top of the roof, causing water to travel down the slopes and valleys of your roof until it hits the edge, where the air is still below freezing. The water turns into ice, and as more melted snow follows its path, it builds, and an ice dam is formed.

Water damage from ice dams occurs when the water backs up and seeps under the shingles, finding a pathway through nail holes in the roof deck and down into your home. Thankfully, there are numerous steps you can take before and after an ice dam grows to prevent water damage from ice dams.


Winter is coming, which means there's no better time than the present to stop ice dams before they form. The key to prevention is to keep your attic and roof cold. Start in the attic, installing and adding proper insulation. If you're not sure if you have enough, check the depth of what's there. Building codes require 12 to 14 inches of insulation. If you have 8 inches or less, it's time to add more. An adequate level of insulation is an excellent defense against ice dams. It reduces conductive heat loss from your home into your attic, which warms the roof.

Next, look to your ventilation. Attic ventilation is designed to let in outside air, which is beneficial during the winter months. They draw in colder air and remove the warmer air. Examine your attic to check your level of ventilation. Install any soffit vents required to reach the proper level of ventilation. Using a soffit dam prevents loose-fill insulation from spilling over the vent. To cool down the attic faster, open gable vents and any windows present.

Preventing heat loss through your ceiling is essential as well. One-third of your home's heat loss is through the ceiling into the attic. Insulation only goes so far. Close your attic leaks by raking back the insulation to locate leaks, and plug them with foam or caulk. Also, seal air ducts inside the attic, bathroom and kitchen fan vents if present, and the attic doors or hatches.

A fallback strategy is to use a snow rake to remove the snow after every snowfall. You can also install heat cables around the edge of your roof in a zig-zag pattern. Heat cables are most useful where ice dams occur regularly, and other solutions have failed.

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If you need to know how to prevent water damage from ice dams after you've already had a dam form, there are several steps you can take stop the flow of water inside your home. If you're not sure whether you have water damage from ice dams, warning signs include:

  • Peeling paint
  • Sagging drywall
  • Stains on windows and doors

If you have an ice dam, it needs to be removed, whether it's causing water damage inside the home or not. Never try to pull the ice dam down off the roof, as it strongly adheres to your shingles and removal in this way will damage them. You also shouldn't try to remove the ice dam with a chisel and hammer for the same reason. Ice dams should be removed by a trained professional only.

If the water damage is there, contain the leak with a bucket and towels. Next, change the temperature of the attic by opening the vents and windows. Making the attic cold allows the roof to refreeze. If it's safe for you to do so, lower the thermostat to 50 degrees Fahrenheit. Also, close the attic doors or hatchways tightly and seal the edges with foam or tape, which encloses the cold air inside the attic.


If you have any of the warning signs of water damage from ice dams, take the steps above and stop the water flow. Next, call a water damage restoration company. A reputable company will provide mitigation and restoration to remove the water and dry out the affected areas. It only takes a small amount of water to create a lot of damage. If you have an ice dam form on your roof, pay close attention to your walls and ceiling. Prepare your home during the summer to prevent water damage from ice dams during the winter and call a professional as soon as you notice the intrusion.

Call 877-957-5670 to schedule an appointment with an AdvantaClean water damage specialist today!

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