How To Prevent Ice Dams: 5 Winter Rooftop Strategies

Author: Diana Rodriguez-Zaba
Last Updated on

If we’re lucky, Chicago’s first snowfall gets the kids outside to play and covers the city in a beautiful white blanket. It also starts the freezing and melting process that forms ice dams on the eaves.

You can’t stop the snow, and you can’t stop the thaw, so how do you put ice dam prevention strategies in place to protect your home?

It takes a little planning to be ready for that next wave of ice along the roof’s edge. Being prepared reduces the chances of climbing a ladder and breaking up the mess. You also minimize the risk of a leaky roof and ice dam water damage cleanup.

5 Strategies for Preventing Ice Dams on the Roof

In a perfect homeowner’s world, you’d never lose heat through a roof covered with snow. In our real Chicago world, that white stuff on top of the house melts and collects under shingles and along the roofline. It freezes overnight and thaws the next day in a continuing process that builds ice dams along the eaves.

These five real-world ice dam prevention strategies can significantly cut down on the number of ice dam-busting trips you have to make up the ladder this winter. They can help avoid damage to the house from roof leaks too.

1. Know How to Prevent Ice Dams on the Roof

remove snow from roof

• Keep cold outside and heat inside the attic with insulation rated at least R-38.
• Make sure the attic stays air tight by sealing openings around wiring, plumbing and exhaust fans.
• Clear debris from roof vents and soffits so that they don’t catch and hold melting runoff.
• Use a roof rake to pull snow off the roof and reduce the chance of dangerous accumulation.
• Regularly clean gutters and downspouts to avoid clogs that slow down runoff.

2. Know How to Prevent Ice Dams in Roof Valleys

• Install a thermal break on the underside of rafters along roof valleys.
• Use a rigid foam insulation in and around dead-end rafter bays.
• Make ice dam prevention easier in roof valleys by keeping them clear of leaves and debris.
• Install snow melt cables specially designed for use in roof valleys.

3. Know How to Prevent Ice Buildup on Metal Roofs

metal roof
There are different coatings available to help release ice and snow from metal roofs.

• Follow the same steps recommended for preventing ice dams on traditional roofs.
• Ask a building contractor about different metal roof coatings that help shed ice and snow.
• Consider repainting the roof a color that absorbs warmth during the day.

4. Know How to Protect Gutters

When you ask a home improvement professional, “How do you get rid of ice dams in gutters?” be prepared for limited options. Gutter technicians use specially designed steam systems to thaw out badly frozen gutters and downspouts.

Don’t hammer on gutters to break up ice, and don’t use ice melt products. Both methods can seriously damage gutter structures and materials.

The safest way to clear ice from gutters and downspouts is also the easiest. Simply wait, and let it thaw. Prevention is key, so keep gutters clean, and check them often for signs of clogs. Consider installing gutter covers and downspout screens to keep out winter debris.

5. Know Your Ice Dam Prevention Products

roof ice belt
An ice belt can prevent ice dams from forming on your roof.

• Calcium Chloride Ice Melt – Use ice melt as a filler in pantyhose positioned along ice dam areas. You can also toss the tablets up on the roof, but it’s more efficient to climb a ladder and spread them along eaves. Be sure to use calcium chloride ice melt specifically formulated for safe rooftop use.

• Ice Belts – These thin aluminum panels are installed along the roof line to help eaves shed snow, but how well do ice belts work? They’re best for protecting limited areas because they can develop ice dams above the top of panel edging.

• Heat Cables – Available at home improvement centers, roof heating cables usually come in 100-foot lengths. Installation can be a DIY project , but you might feel more comfortable hiring an electrician. Keep in mind that heat cables add to your monthly winter electric bill.

Stay Safe on the Ladder

Whether you’re tossing ice melt, installing ice belts or running heat cables, we want you to be careful. Check the ladder before you head up to the roof, and ask someone to watch out from below just in case. Keep us posted on how our ice dam prevention strategies work for your home by sharing your input through our Comments Section.

Even the best plans can be overwhelmed by freezing weather, but you don’t have to deal with water damage cleanup by yourself. You can count on ServiceMaster Restoration by Zaba for a fast response and expert help.

We’re proud of our reputation as Chicago’s leading water damage restoration specialists, and we handle both residential and commercial properties. Our teams are always standing by, so just give us a call.

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