What is an Ice Dam?

May 12, 2021

What is an Ice Dam?

Monday, November 2nd, 2015

What is an Ice Dam - Image 1

Snow and ice are an unavoidable part of winters in Wisconsin. You can try to avoid ice dams from forming on your roof, but avoidance will only lead to major headaches for you as a homeowner. Simply put, an ice dam is a ridge of ice that accumulates at the edge of your roof during extremely cold weather. This formation prevents melting snow from running off the roof, where it gets stuck at the ice dam.

Ice Dam Complications

If an ice dam is blocking water from getting off the roof, this leads to a back-up that causes water to leak and damage your walls and ceilings. Not only will you suffer leaks, but cold air infiltration as well. Leaks can also saturate your insulation, causing your home’s heating efficiency to plummet. After a snow storm, the snow melts when it comes into contact with your roof due to the warm air from the attic. However, it refreezes when it gets to the roof’s edge where it’s colder, according to the Family Handyman. The water is trapped by the ice dam, and it has no choice but to flow through the roof, under the shingles, and into the house.


As a homeowner, you’re not helpless when it comes to preventing ice dams. There are a few steps you can take to make sure this doesn’t happen to you, and it all starts with a quality gutter system. In the warmer months, install a clog-free gutter system that won’t cause backups of debris and water. Make sure the gutters are securely attached to the home, which should be checked regularly throughout the spring and fall seasons.

Ice dams that build up near the edge of the roof can easily pull gutters down and away from the home, leading to a safety risk for residents, not to mention the damage it can cause to your home and the shrubs below. Ice dams form at the edges of roofs because there’s no heat under there. Keeping the roof the same temperature as the eaves underneath can be achieved through improving your attic’s ventilation, adding more insulation to the attic and sealing up any air leaks that may be present. Excessive warm air leaks heat up the underside of the roof, leading to more melting and pooling.

You lose one-third of your home’s heat through the attic, so inspect your home for leaks, which commonly occur around light fixtures, telephone jacks, doors, windows, access hatches and chimneys. Use caulking and extra insulation to fill these gaps, plus add some ventilation with roof and soffit vents. Heat tape is another option that works well for ice dams. These heat cables are placed along the edge of your roof so ice can’t form in the first place.

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