Preventing Ice Dams on Your Roof this Winter

Filed in Insulation, Roofing by on October 6, 2015

Protecting Your Asphalt Shingle Roof and Home with Proper Attic Venting and Insulation

Massachusetts — As pretty as icicles may be to look at, you do not want to see them hanging from the roof of your house. Unfortunately this can be a telltale sign of a potential ice dam problem, which should not be ignored.


What is an ice dam, and how bad can it really be?

Simply put, an ice dam is a barrier of ice that builds up along the edges of your roof which prevents melting snow from reaching the gutters and properly draining. Warmer air collecting near the top of the roof causes snow to melt unevenly.  As water runs down along the outside of the roof it freezes when it hits the lower colder sections of the roof.  This cycle is repeated day after day until a significant ice dam is created.

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Ice dams can apply tremendously destructive pressure on your gutters and entire asphalt shingle roof system. They can also lift asphalt shingles and protective underlayment causing the potential for water to leak into your home, damaging ceilings, walls, and structural elements. Aside from the obvious eye sore this can cause, it can also lead to the formation of mold or mildew in the living areas of your home leaving you and your family vulnerable to mild or even severe respiratory problems. Left unchecked, mold and mildew may result in structural degradation to your home.

So what can you do about it?

Inadequate ventilation and insulation is a major cause of ice dams. Proper attic ventilation and floor insulation go hand in hand to extending the longevity of typical asphalt shingle roof.  Properly installed roofing and insulation will keep you cooler in the summer and warmer in the winter.  This will increase your personal comfort and reduce your year-round energy bills.

All major shingle manufacturers REQUIRE proper ventilation as part of their warranty stipulation.

The diagram below helps to illustrate the important points behind good ventilation and insulation practices.  The functional attic on the left shows air being sucked up through soffit vents as a result of the opening at the top of the asphalt shingle roof using a ridge vent.  This ridge vent creates a significant updraft and allows cold air to fill the attic space.  Cool air circulation is essential to keeping snow from melting unevenly and causing ice dams.   The insulation on the attic floor is equally important to keeping your homes heat contained in the living spaces below as well as not raising the attic temperature.


In the dysfunction attic (on the right) inadequate insulation allows warm moist air to rise into the attic space.  This problem is further compounded by the absence of adequate ventilation.  This can result in condensation on the roofs structural members possibly leading to formation of mold, mildew and actual rotting of rafters and decking.

Never vent a kitchen, bathroom or clothes dryer directly into your attic.  Building codes require that all of these must be vented to the outside.  It always amazes me how often I still see this in the field.  Besides being illegal, it’s a potential fire hazard from lint and grease build-up and can make your attic into a breeding ground for not only mold and mildew, but also insects and rodents.

Building codes contain a significant amount of information detailing insulation and ventilation requirements for roofing systems.  These codes have evolved over time and continue to do so in response to changes in construction materials, fire safety considerations and results.  In many instances what was once an acceptable practice in the past is now unacceptable or even illegal.  Any remodeling done to your home must bring those specific areas impacted to be in compliance with current codes and regulations.
Ready Pros contractors are ice dam prevention experts with the experience, know-how and access to cost effective patented technologies designed to prevent ice dams from ever happening.  Call today for your free evaluation.

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