Homeowners Beware: 5 Ways to Prevent Ice Dams


Being a homeowner is a wonderful thing, but there are some headaches that can come along with owning a home – especially in the winter. Here in New Jersey and in other areas where snow is common in the winter, shoveling and de-icing your driveway and walkway are par for the course. However, snow can pose even greater problems if you’re a homeowner.

A problem that is of major concern for your home when it snows are ice dams. Ice dams occur when snow melts on a roof, the melted snow run down the slope of the roof underneath the non-melted snow and then it refreezes at the roof’s edge, creating what is called a dam.

When more snow melts on the roof, it can collect against the dam and leak into the house through the roof. An ice dam can cause serious and expensive damage, including pulling shingles and gutters off, causing damage to ceilings, window sills, and interior and exterior walls, and damage to shrubs, cars, pets, and even people in the way of its path when it breaks off.

To illustrate the severity of this problem, between 2002 and 2007, water damage that resulted from ice dams was the second largest share of homeowners insurance claims – the average claim being more $5,531.

Preventing Ice Dams

Just because you live in an area where it snows doesn’t mean that your house has to be subjected to the damage that an ice dam can cause. The following five tips can help you avoid ice dams – and the headaches and financial costs that can come along with them.

  • Ventilate the eaves and the ridge of the roof.  A key step in preventing the formation of an ice dam is to keep the air circulating under the roof and throughout the attic space, and that can be done by installing a ridge vent and continuous soffit vents. The vents that are the best to do this job are those that create one square foot of opening per 300 square feet of flooring in your attic. You can also add baffles to ensure that there is a clear pathway for the air to circulate.
  • Add an attic fan. Another way that you can ensure that there is a continuous flow of air in your attic is by installing an attic fan. Just like any other fan, an attic fan will ventilate the space and keep the air moving. Moving air means that there is less of a chance for ice to form on the roof.
  • Keep your roof and gutters clean. Make sure that all of the components of the roof that keep water flowing are cleaned out. This includes the gutters, the drains, the scuppers and the downspouts. During the fall, before the cold winter weather moves in, clean out all of these components to rid them of the leaves and other debris that can collect in them.
  • Exhaust outside. Any ducts in the roof that lead to kitchen, bathroom or dryer vents should be exhausted outside through the roof or the walls. You should never have the exhaust ducts go through the soffits, as this could cause issues with air flow and ice dams to form.
  • Install flashing around the chimney. You can stop leaks from occurring by installing flashing between the chimney and the frame of the house. When installing flashing, make sure to use L-shape steel that is fastened with unbroken beads of first-stop sealant.

Removing Ice Dams

You can remove an ice dam by raking the snow off the roof. Don’t use a sharp object, such as an ax or chisel, as it can damage your roof.  Alternatively, you can fill panty hose with calcium chloride and apply the pantyhose vertically across the ice dam, which will slowly melt the ice.

Keep in mind that ladders, roofs, slippery ice and do-it-yourself ice dam removals are dangerous. That’s why it’s a good idea to hire a roofing company to take care of ice dam problems.

Ice dams are a serious problem that affects homeowners who live in New Jersey and other snowy areas. By following these tips, you can prevent the formation of ice dams and avoid leaks, roof damage, and even interior damages from occurring.

Contact The Insurance Center of North Jersey today at info@icnj.com or 201-525-1100 for additional information regarding homeowners insurance as well as other policy types.