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  • Writer's pictureNeil Perry

Damn those ice dams...

As winter settles in, nature paints a picturesque scene with snow-covered landscapes. However, hidden within this winter wonderland lies a less appealing phenomenon known as ice damming. Ice damming can wreak havoc on roofs, gutters, and the overall structural integrity of buildings. In this article, we will delve into the causes, consequences, and preventive measures to combat this common winter nuisance.

What is Ice Damming?

Ice damming occurs when melting snow on a roof refreezes at the edges, forming a barrier of ice that blocks the natural flow of water. This ice dam prevents the melting snow from properly draining off the roof, causing it to accumulate and seep into vulnerable areas such as shingles, vents, and ceilings. The water intrusion can lead to significant damage, including roof leaks, structural decay, mold growth, and compromised insulation.

Causes of Ice Damming

Several factors contribute to the formation of ice dams, including:

  1. Inadequate insulation: Insufficient insulation in the attic allows heat from the interior to escape, warming the roof's surface and accelerating snowmelt.

  2. Poor ventilation: Inadequate ventilation in the attic traps warm air, creating temperature imbalances that facilitate snowmelt.

  3. Roof design and slope: Certain roof designs, such as complex rooflines or shallow slopes, are more prone to ice damming due to the restricted flow of water.

  4. Outside temperature fluctuations: Fluctuating temperatures, where snow melts during the day and refreezes at night, promote ice dam formation.

Consequences of Ice Damming

The consequences of ice damming can be extensive and costly. Some of the common issues caused by ice dams include:

  1. Roof damage: The weight of accumulated ice and water can strain the roof structure, leading to sagging, cracking, and even roof collapse.

  2. Water leakage: The trapped water behind the ice dam can seep into the roof, damaging shingles, underlayment, and decking. Eventually, it may penetrate into the interior of the building, causing water stains, rot, and mold growth.

  3. Gutter and downspout damage: Ice dams can pull gutters and downspouts away from the building, damaging their fasteners and creating additional water drainage problems.

Preventive Measures

While ice damming can be challenging to completely eliminate, the following preventive measures can significantly reduce its occurrence and minimize damage:

  1. Adequate insulation: Ensure your attic has sufficient insulation to prevent heat from escaping, minimizing temperature variations on the roof.

  2. Proper ventilation: Install and maintain proper attic ventilation to allow cold air to circulate, keeping the roof surface cooler and reducing snowmelt.

  3. Roof and gutter maintenance: Keep your roof clean from debris and clear gutters regularly to ensure unobstructed water flow.

  4. Heat cables: Install heat cables along the roof's edges to melt snow and create a channel for water drainage. However, this should be considered as a temporary solution, and underlying insulation and ventilation issues should be addressed.

  5. Professional inspection: Regularly schedule roof inspections by professionals to identify and rectify any potential vulnerabilities or signs of ice damming before they cause significant damage.


Ice damming is a winter phenomenon that can have severe consequences for your property. Understanding the causes and taking preventive measures can help protect your roof, gutters, and overall structural integrity. By properly insulating your attic, ensuring adequate ventilation, and addressing any maintenance issues, you can minimize the risk of ice damming and enjoy a safer and more secure winter season.

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