Ice dams are a problem in all cold and snowy areas but with some proper steps and actions, you can help eliminate or at least reduce that problem in your home. You cannot stop snow from falling, but you can prevent ice dams from forming and causing damages to your roof and your home.

Keep reading and find out how exactly the dams are formed and what you can do to prevent them on your roof.  


How Do Ice Dams Form on Your Roof?


During the winter and the colder season, when you are heating your home, the warm air from the rooms below the attic and the roof is going to come up into the attic if you don’t have any insulation in the floor.

When that air comes up, it is going to heat the underside of the roof. When you have a lot of snow on the roof, it actually acts as an insulation blanket so the warm air in the attic will be heating the lower layer of that snow, melting it, and turning it into the water.

The water then runs down the roof shingles, it reaches the cold overhang and freezes, forming the dam. This process will continually happen if you continue to have a lot of snow on the roof and if you haven’t done some preventive measures in your home and on your roof.

The ice dams get bigger, the water gets higher, and you are even at risk of damaging your roof and the shingles, as the water can get under them and potentially enter your house.   

Let’s take a look at some of the best techniques of preventing the formation of ice dams on your roof and the dangers they can bring.


1.  Remove the Snow from Your Roof


Having no snow on your roof is the best, most effective, and cheapest technique of preventing the formation of ice dams. If there is no snow, there is nothing to melt, and the dams have nowhere to form and nothing to form from. It is important to remove all the snow because if there is even a very thin layer of snow left, you still run the risk of it melting and creating ice dams.

The most important thing is always to stay safe. Working on the roof always carries certain dangers of slips and falls, so make sure to wear proper shoes and that your ladder is firmly on the ground while working – have someone hold them or tie it to the roof.

You will need a roof rake to remove the snow, and preferably one that is made of plastic or that has some bumpers in the wheels or rollers so that you don’t damage your shingles. The best technique from snow removal is to do it one layer at a time, removing smaller bits of snow starting from the bottom.

It is important to work your way up the roof and remove all the snow, because if there is any snow left, even just a small amount on the top of your roof, the ice dam will form in that place where you’ve stopped raking.

Raking the snow off your roof is not a hard task, though it may be a bit time-consuming, as well as repetitive if the snow keeps falling. However, being thorough and persistent is important, as removing the ice dams and the damages they cause will be harder and more expensive.


2. Take Care of Trees and Branches Overhanging Your Roof


This may not have crossed your mind, but trees that hang over your roof can be a significant factor that causes the ice dams to form on your roof. Tall trees that hang over your house can be great additions during the summer and the hot months as they create shadows and function as a kind of additional insulation, keeping the sun away from your home. But during winter, on the other hand, they can have some negative effects.

The areas on your roof where the trees create shadows will inevitably be cooler than other areas of the roof – anywhere from 5 to 15 degrees cooler. When the snow melts and runs down the roof, it will refreeze when it hits these colder spots, forming ice dams on those areas.

Therefore, in order to prevent those cold spots, you should trim your trees and the branches that overhang your roof. This will allow the roof to have an equal and steady temperature throughout, preventing cold spots where melted snow could refreeze.    


3. Prevent Your Roof from Getting Too Hot


As you start heating your home, that heat from the lower rooms and areas of your home will rise and escape into the attic. The heat then gets bottled up in the attic making your roof too hot, and the difference in temperatures between the roof and the outside air will be too big. This, in turn, will cause the lower layers of snow to melt, the water will run down the roof and create the ice dams.  

In order to stop this from happening it is essential that you try to prevent the attic from heating up and prevent the warm air from escaping into it. This can be done in several ways.

First of all, you should think about adding or improving the insulation in your attic. When there is proper insulation in the attic floor, very little heat will be able to reach the attic and cause the roof to heat up. Focus your attention particularly on all the openings between the attic and the lower living areas, around fans, lighting fixtures etc. Seal any gaps and openings you may find to prevent air leakage.

Second of all, check your attic ventilation, improve it or add it if it is necessary. This is important so that any heat that does enter the attic, which can happen even if you have insulation, can easily escape it without heating up the roof. Check the existing vents and make sure they are open and clear of snow, so that warm air can escape and cold air enters for an optimal airflow.


4. Have the Right Kind of Roof


Of course, we don’t mean you should get a completely new roof and replace the one you have just because of ice dams. This advice will be helpful for those who are either building a new house or who already need a roof replacement for some reason.  

Metal roofs are ideal if you want to prevent ice dams on your roof. The surface of these roofs doesn’t allow the ice to grip onto anything, so the water will simply run off of it. Apart from that, there are significantly fewer chances of the water getting under it, unlike a shingle roof where the water can more easily get under the shingles and cause damage.

On the other hand, if you want to install a standard asphalt roof, then the best solution for preventing the ice dams would be to install ice and water shielding under the entire surface of the roof. Check with your roofer and make sure to ask him about it.




Preventing the ice dams from ever forming on your roof will help you keep your home safe and undamaged. Keeping the snow off your roof is the best preventive step you can take in this process and making sure you have proper insulation and ventilation in your attic will significantly help and contribute to it. Get ready for winter and make sure everything is in order before that first snow comes.


This blog post is brought to you by Reilly Roofing & Gutters, Fort Worth roofing company.

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