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Dealing with Ice on your Roof and Gutters

Few scenes are as picturesque as a home in the winter with snow on the roof and icicles hanging from the eaves. Hopefully it's someone else's home instead of yours. As they melt, an icy roofs and frozen gutters can cause damage leading to expensive roof and interior repairs. If you live in an area prone to severe winters, you may not be able to completely eliminate such problems, but by making sure your roof and gutters are ready for winter you can minimize leaks and repairs.

An Icy Roof and Frozen Gutters: A Recipe for Ice Damming

One of the biggest causes of winter roof leaks is ice damming. It's best to take preventive measures before winter arrives, as no one wants to get on an icy roof. Ice damming occurs when ice on your roof, frozen gutters, and downspouts prevent run off. If the snow on your roof begins to melt from the bottom up, it has no where to go when it runs to your frozen gutters. Instead, it refreezes at night, often pushing up under your shingles and underlayment. After a few consecutive days the ice can build up enough to start melting through your roof sheathing, and/or into your home.

Two areas on your roof that are highly prone to ice damming are along the eaves and in any roof valleys where snow and ice build up. A roofing contractor can inspect your roof and gutters make corrections that help prevent ice damming. This minimizes potentia damage.

Interior Prevention

One of the reasons roof snow melts from the bottom and creates an icy roof is heat escaping from your attic. Solutions include:


  • Batting Insulation--Additional insulation between your trusses and under the roof sheathing limits heat loss.
  • Ventilation--Air circulation in the attic space moves fresh air in and warm air out, utilizing vents. This prevents warmed air being trapped in the attic.
  • Blown Insulation--Upgrading the insulation on your attic floor helps keep your heat in the living areas, where it belongs.

A roofing contractor can determine which interior prevention method works best for your home.

Exterior Prevention

An inspection by a roofing contractor can also determine exterior ways for limiting potential water leaks caused by ice damming. Methods include making sure your gutters have enough fall, or installing ice and water shields on your roof's eaves and valleys. Ice and water shields are self adhering waterproof rubber membranes developed to prevent ice damming. It's installed over roof sheathing and below the underlayment and shingles in areas prone to problems.

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Roofing vs. Reroofing

Roofing vs. Reroofing

If you come to find out that your roof has been damaged and needs to be fixed then there are two main approaches you can take. You can either decide to make a roof repair or replace the entire roof. Roof repairs will generally save you time and money, but in most cases a new roof is the best option. As a general rule of thumb, if the existing roof on is only one layer and there are no problems with the roof deck, a new roof is not necessary.

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