Real Estate Talk Boston

How To Prevent Ice Dams


By: Wayne Czybora

The term “ice dams” should be a familiar one to native New Englanders. This is a situation which results in water dripping down inside the house. You may see the water stains on the wall or ceiling or it may leak inside a wall. The reason this happens is because too much warm air is escaping into the attic from the living area of the house and melting the snow on the roof.

Let’s look at this in more detail. The melting snow trickles down to the (colder) edge of roof at the eave locations where it freezes and turns to ice. By the way, all that snow that sits on the roof actually insulates the attic which causes the temperature in the attic to rise even more which only exasperates the melting process. This frozen accumulation of ice becomes a dam and creates a “puddle” of water which finds its way under the roofing shingles and into the house.

What you need to do is eliminate the cause(s) of the warm attic. First, insulate any gaps that may be present around any vent pipes or chimneys that protrude through the attic floor. Any access panels or pull-down stairs should have some kind of insulation on top of them, as well.

Second, make sure you have about 12 inches of insulation on the attic floor. These measures will greatly contribute to keeping your warm house air out of the attic (and also lower your heating bill).

And lastly, make sure your attic is properly ventilated. I actually blogged about this very topic recently and you can easily access that post (as well as all of my posts) by going to my website at

If ice damming persists, you could also purchase a roof rake to remove the snow that accumulates at the edge of your roof providing you have a one story house. However, you need to be careful because this method can wear away the roofing shingles over time. I do know that there are some roof rakes that have wheels so that is something to consider.

Another option is to install heating cables at the edges of the roof that will melt the snow, thus eliminating any chance of ice dams. However, keep in mind this will increase your electrical bill.

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