It can be challenging to care for your home during chilly Chicago winters—especially your roofing system.
Unfortunately, when snow melts on your roof, it can create a troubling problem for your home—ice dams. If your home is currently experiencing this issue, you might be wondering if your gutters or gutter guards are to blame.
The truth is, several factors contribute to ice dams—not just your gutters. Here’s everything you should know to safeguard your home against costly damage from melted snow and ice buildup.
What Are Ice Dams?
When heat from your home escapes to your attic in the winter, it warms the roof decking and causes snow to melt. The melted snow then flows to the cold edges (or eaves) of your roof, where it settles and refreezes.
During the winter, this process repeats until the edges of your roof are covered in hard chunks of ice, known as ice dams.
Due to their heavy weight, ice dams can cause significant damage to your home:
- Roof leaks
- Structural damage
- Peeling paint
- Water stains
- Mold and mildew growth
- Broken or damaged roofing and gutters
- Slippery sidewalks
- Landscape and basement flooding
5 Factors that Contribute to Ice Dams
Although gutters contribute to ice dam formation, many other factors add to this problem too. Here are five of the most common.
When leaves, tree branches, and other debris accumulate in your gutters, they become clogged. These blockages prevent water and melted snow from freely flowing away from your home. Instead, it collects on the eaves of your roof, allowing an ice dam to form.
Improperly Installed Gutters
If your roofing contractor installed your gutters incorrectly, your home might experience water damage, structural damage, and of course, ice dams. Gutters protect your home during the winter when they direct melted snow away from your home to prevent ice buildup.
If your attic isn’t properly insulated, heat can escape from your home, causing the snow outside to melt and refreeze on the eaves.
Complex Roof Design
Certain types of homes, like many Chicago houses in the Historic District, are more prone to ice dam formation because of design complexity. Certain roofs have more eaves and valleys that make ice dam formation virtually inevitable.
Improper attic ventilation keeps heat trapped in your home, warming your roof decking to create ice dams.
How to Remove Ice Dams
If your roof has already suffered from ice dams, don’t worry! There are a few options to remove accumulated ice from your roof:
De-icer is a chemically formulated product designed to melt ice and snow, even when temperatures are below freezing. You can purchase de-icer at your local home improvement store.
To treat your ice dam, set up a ladder and generously pour de-icer on the area that’s been affected. Depending on the size of the ice dam, you may need to apply de-icer several times.
You can always chip away at the ice dam with a pickaxe or ice removal tool as a back-up option.
Remember to take proper safety precautions, like wearing safety glasses, to protect yourself from sharp ice. We recommend de-icer as the easiest and safest removal method, but chipping away your ice dam will work in a pinch.
If you don’t feel confident removing the ice dam yourself, call a trained professional to remove your ice dam with their specialized equipment.
How to Prevent Ice Dams
Once your ice dams are removed, you’re likely concerned about how you can prevent them from forming on your home next winter.
Here are the best investments you can make to prevent ice dam formation:
Add Proper Ventilation & Insulation
The correct amount of attic insulation prevents heat from escaping to your attic, which minimizes the transfer of warmth to your roofing deck. Insulation will keep your attic cool, which keeps the snow on your roof cool, too.
Even if some warmth is transferred to your attic, an effective soffit and ridge vent system allows heat to escape from your home to keep your roof deck at an even temperature. Ventilation prevents melted snow from refreezing, which ultimately eliminates roof dams.
Clean and Repair Your Gutters
Keeping your gutters clean is an excellent way to prevent ice dams from forming on your roof. Clean gutters provide a pathway for melted water to flow away from your home, preventing ice buildup, structural damage, icy walkways, flooded landscape, and more troublesome problems. We recommend cleaning your gutters twice a year—once in the fall and once in the spring.
Additionally, if your gutters have experienced any damage from ice dams, heavy snow buildup, or incorrect installation, call a gutter professional to ensure your gutters are working correctly or invest in a new gutter system.
Invest in Gutter Guards
Protect your home from ice dams with reliable, low-maintenance gutter guards. Gutter guards include a filter that separates liquids from solids to prevent clogs, drain water, and block ice and snow accumulation in your gutters.
Ultimately, correctly installed gutter guards prevent ice dams in your gutters, so you won’t have to worry about disfigured, damaged gutters each winter.
LeafCo’s Guide to Common Gutter Problems
Learn more about all the issues you may face with your gutters in our handy guide.Read the Guide
Invest in a Reliable, Long-Lasting Gutter System to Prevent Ice Dam Formation
Don’t let improperly installed or damaged gutters get the best of your Chicago home next winter. Instead, invest in a reliable, low-maintenance gutter system that will protect your home for years to come.
Our team are specialists in gutter installation—in fact, it’s all we do! Our reliable products and expert installation offer excellent protection for your home against costly damage from ice dam formation.
Learn about all the benefits you can enjoy with durable gutter installation from LeafCo Gutters!