How to Avoid Ice Dams


Ice dams pose a serious threat to the structural integrity of your roof. When large, imposing icicles hang from the eaves, it indicates improper water drainage caused by roof ice dams. As a homeowner in Pittsburgh’s snowy climate, it’s crucial to understand how these dams form, the potential damage they can cause, and effective prevention methods.

Formation of Ice Dams

Ice dams form when snow accumulates on the roof and heat from the house causes it to melt from beneath. The melted snow then refreezes at the colder eaves and gutters, creating a barrier that prevents proper drainage. This barrier is known as an ice dam.

Potential Damage Caused by Ice Dams

Here are some issues you may encounter if ice dams form on your roof:

  • Roof leaks: Shingles are designed to guide water towards the gutters, not hold standing water. Ice dams can allow water to seep under the shingles, leading to leaks, wood rot, sagging ceilings, peeling paint, and mold growth within your attic or interior walls.
  • Wet insulation: Water leaks can also damage attic insulation, reducing its effectiveness and resulting in higher energy costs and a less comfortable home.
  • Gutter damage: The weight of an ice dam can cause your gutters to become loose or even collapse.

Tips for Ice Dam Prevention

Implementing preventive measures can significantly reduce the risk of ice dams on your roof. Here are some tips to protect your home:

  • Attic insulation: Properly insulate the attic floor to prevent heat from escaping the living space, reducing the likelihood of ice dams. Consider using high-quality insulation materials such as fiberglass batts, blown-in cellulose, or spray foam. If you notice floor joists poking through existing insulation, adding more insulation is advisable.
  • Roof ventilation: Adequate roof ventilation is crucial in preventing ice dams. Proper airflow beneath the roof helps dissipate heat and prevents snow from melting from beneath.
  • Gutter guards: Install gutter guards to prevent debris buildup and ensure smooth water flow, minimizing the risk of ice dams.
  • Ice melt systems: Consider installing a de-icing system, such as heated cables or pantyhose filled with magnesium chloride de-icer, to melt snow before it accumulates and forms ice.
  • Snow removal: Use a roof rake to remove snow promptly and regularly during a snowstorm, preventing the formation of ice dams.

For assistance with ice dam concerns in the Greater Pittsburgh Area, rely on Forest Knoll Construction. We provide asphalt roof inspections and replacements to optimize the performance of your shingles. With over 15 years of industry experience, we are a trusted partner for all your roofing needs. Contact us today at 412-932-3095 to receive a free quote for your next roofing project.