Stopping Ice Dams in Their Tracks: A Guide for Homeowners

Jan 12, 2024

Drip, drop, plop – what’s that sound? It’s a water leak in the ceiling! Sigh, grab the buckets.

As Evanston residents, like the rest of the Chicagoland area, we’re no strangers to the Midwest winter. Once the beautiful layers of white snow hit Evanston and the temperatures hang below freezing, the winter gifts us not only its charm but its knack for accumulating ice. It’s not just icy roads you ought to be looking out for, but the culprits that come down from your roof.

No, this is not another warning to look above for hanging icicles, look beyond and you will find another icy criminal: Ice dams.

They form on your roof, as warm air inside your home rises and begins to melt the snow on it. When the melted snow then slides down the roof, the water refreezes at the edge, creating an ice dam that can block all of the additional newly melted snow from sliding off the edge of the roof. Now you’ve got moisture pooling up and searching for a crack to escape, which can lead to serious water damage.

Following up on my recent post on how to ensure your home has been fully winterized, here is how you can take action against ice dams this winter:

  • Add insulation in your attic: Insulating your attic floor will keep the heat in the places you want it most – your living spaces. It will result in a cooler attic, which also means a cooler roof.

  • Check the ventilation in your attic: Insulation and ventilation go hand in hand. Ensure there are proper vents that allow cool air to enter into the attic and circulate under the roof, preventing condensation.

  • Install shields: You might also want to install ice and water shields along the eaves of your roof. This extra layer provides a protective barrier and can be especially helpful in protecting your home against water intrusion if you don’t have an attic to work with.

  • Use a Roof Rake: You read that correctly. Found at your local hardware store, this cost-effective option can help you work smart. Use the roof rake when you inspect the roof for any snow accumulating at the edge to clear it off right away. But always use caution to not damage the roof, and never place yourself directly under hanging icicles.

  • Install De-icing Cables: Probably one of the easiest options to use once installed, de-icing cables will heat your roof and melt off the snow for you! And it’s easy to use too. When cold rain or snow is expected, simply turn it on to keep your roof, gutters and downspouts clear. Some people even install heated cables in their sidewalks to ensure they don’t ice up. But since it’s electrical, make sure you have a professional install it.

  • Check Your Roof: Keeping your roof in good condition will always be an important step. You should inspect it after major storms. Missing shingles are best addressed as soon as possible. And be on the lookout for anything unusual, as items from other buildings can blow onto it, blocking water run-off and even puncturing a hole in your roof.

Stay smart this winter. Check out my Jackie’s List of Preferred Vendors to find professionals you need to prevent ice dams (or repair the damage caused by them).

My team and I also always a phone call or email away should you need additional referrals. After all, we are here to help and are proud to be known as your Evanston Experts.

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