How to Prevent Ice Dams With Insulation

While the phrase ice dams may evoke funny images of some sort of cold-weather beavers building mini blockades of ice in rivers, the very real home problem we’re referring to is no laughing matter.

An ice dam is a winter phenomenon that can occur when an attic or home is not properly insulated. If not prevented, ice dams can destroy roofs, shingles, walls, and siding, racking up thousands of dollars in-home repairs come spring.

Keep reading to learn more about what ice dams are and how you can prevent them from happening to your home.

How do ice dams form?

Ice dams are created during the winter when the air is cold enough to freeze water into ice and snow. These typically occur when heated indoor air leaks into an unheated attic through cracks or insulation gaps. Once the warm air enters the attic, it creates warm spots on the roof and begins to melt any snow that may have accumulated on the roof. The melted snow then begins to run down the roof until it reaches another cool spot, often the eaves or gutters, where it refreezes into ice.

If not address, this process continues to occur where more water freezes on top of the previous ice and forms an ice dam. This dam continues to thicken until ice begins to build up not just on the eaves or gutters, but underneath the shingles. The expanding ice can crack the shingles and then allow the melted snow to penetrate the roof and seep into the walls and ceilings below.

How can you prevent ice dams?

While this phenomenon may seem frighteningly destructive, it is thankfully very preventable. The best way to prevent ice dams is to eliminate attic bypasses.

Attic bypasses, put simply, are areas in your home that allow heated indoor air to enter your attic. Most home builders do their best to prevent these during construction, but sometimes small areas are missed due to oversights.

Another way attic bypasses can form is through damage to attic insulation due to age or other factors. If your attic insulation is missing or damaged in certain areas, it will allow warm air to penetrate the attic, which can lead to ice dams in the winter.

How can I repair attic bypasses?

The good news is that attic bypasses are relatively easy to repair. However, before you address the bypasses themselves, you’ll also want to look at two other contributing factors. The first thing you can do is block any direct heat sources that may be contributing to high temperatures in the attic, such as ceiling heat vents.

The second factor you should consider is whether or not your attic is properly ventilated. Attic fans placed under the roof deck can circulate the colder outside air throughout your attic and prevent the attic from warming enough to melt snow on the roof.

Now, once you’ve addressed these two issues, you’ll want to move on to fixing the issue of heat leaking into your attic at all. This is best done with insulation.

First, you’ll want to evaluate the overall health of your existing insulation. If you have an open attic (an unfinished space above your living area), you’ll want to ensure that you have a thick layer of insulation covering the floor of the attic and providing a barrier between the attic and your ceiling. If you have a finished attic where the roof of your home lies directly above a living area, you’ll want to ensure that your rafters are well insulated.

Next, you’ll want to identify any obvious gaps in insulation in your attic. These often occur around utilities such as heating and cooling ducts, water pipes, and other fixtures. Any gaps should be immediately filled using an appropriate insulation medium.

How can I tell if my home is at risk for ice dams?

The best way to know for sure if your home is at risk for ice dams due to improper insulation is to consult with an insulation expert.

At Koala Insulation, our experts are well-versed in all kinds of attic insulation and ventilation. Our experts will arrive with state-of-the-art equipment to thoroughly inspect your attic or home and identify any areas in need of repair or improvement. They will provide a detailed assessment of the current conditions of your space and use their years of experience to design solutions that fit your home and budget.

By hiring a Koala Insulation expert, you not only get to enjoy a more efficient home faster, but you also get to benefit from the years of energy savings that professionally installed insulation will bring.