Ice dams can be nightmares, potentially causing extensive water damage to their victim´s homes. In 1993, record breaking snowfalls and an unusually long and cold winter caused tens of thousands of homes throughout New England to suffer ice dam related damage. And many of these homes ,roofs hadnát leaked in the previous 20 to 30 years!

If anything positive came of this disaster, it was that more people have become aware of what constitutes shoddy roofing practices. We realized that roofers had been getting away with installing minimally efficient roofs for years... all because the relatively mild winters we had been blessed with never put the roofs to the test! Whole housing and condominium developments were the victims of low quality roof installations by builders. And was there ever a price to be paid for this false economy... millions of dollars in interior wall, ceiling, and other property damage!

How ice dams can cause such damage is a mystery to many people. Let me first explain how they cause the damage that they do. Then, I´ll offer some suggestions on how to bulletproof your house against them. A warning... don't expect a sure cure to be cheap!!

What is an ice dam, and how does it form?

When snow accumulates on a roof, a cycle of melting and refreezing occurs. In a perfect world, the snow would melt off the roof, enter the gutters, and flow harmlessly to the ground. Or the snow would evaporate from the action of the sun, and never really melt off unless the outside temperature rose above the freezing point. However, two key factors interact to cause problems... the outside temperature and the temperature of the inside of your attic.

The warmer your attic is, the more melt off that occurs at the roof surface. This melted snow would normally flow off the edge of the roof. Under certain conditions, though, when air temperature is very low, the water refreezes at the edge of the roof, where the interior roof surface is not being warmed by the attic. This refreezing gradually forms what is fondly known as an "ice dam", a growing heap of ice that blocks path of the melted snow.

Once this dam forms to a certain height, the melted snow that pools up behind it can suddenly leak back under the roof shingles and into your home! On a roof with a low slope, it only takes a small ice dam to cause water backup and leakage.

Contrary to popular opinion, gutters do not cause ice dams. However, an ice dam can extend into a gutter if weather conditions permit.

How can ice dams be prevented in the first place? The answer insulation and ventilation!

Since we have determined the main cause of ice dams to be an overly warm attic, a good start in inoculating your home against ice dams is to reduce the attic temperature. Installing additional insulation on the attic floor is as easy as laying additional batts across the existing ones, or having more insulation blown in.

However, there are limits to the usefulness of this procedure regarding Murphy´s Law of diminishing returns. Once you reach the your area's optimal R-value (a measure of the insulating value of a material), further increases in the amount will not show appreciable decrease in heat loss per dollar spent. Visit Owens Corning's web site at for more information. They have state by state listings of insulation standards and recommendations... the most thorough listing I have found anywhere.

Install weatherstripping and/or insulation on attic stairways or hatchways, and on attic floor–mounted louvers for whole house ventilation fans. Be careful if there are any exposed recessed light fixtures or vent fans poking through the attic floor. Some of these are not designed to be covered with insulation. Get some information from the manufacturers on the suitability of covering them!

Even with optimal insulation, there is still heat leakage into the attic. This is where the value of ventilation becomes apparent. Without adequate ventilation, heat will build up regardless of the amount of insulation. (As an added plus, ventilation removes water vapor also, which can condense in the attic and cause dry rot on wood and rust on metal items.)

Increasing ventilation can be a major or semi-major project. The usual recommendation for venting is 1 square foot of vent for every 150 feet of attic floor area. Most older homes don't even come close to meeting this number. If you have small louvered windows at either end of the attic, known as gable vents, you may be able to replace them with larger ones. This will take some carpentry skills, but is not a really tough job unless you have difficulty getting to either the inside or outside of the windows.

If your house´s roof overhangs the outside walls, add vents into these overhangs (soffits). To complete the ventilation system, add a ridge vent. This is a specialized form of vent that mounts along the length of the peak of the roof. Cold air entering the soffit vents rises along the inside of the roof and exits through the ridge vent, cooling the roof and removing moisture (that important fringe benefit) at the same time. This is the best form of ventilation, but cannot be fully utilized without the soffit venting. However, I would still recommend the addition of ridge venting into any home getting a new roof. Even without the soffit vents, the action of the ridge vent will lower the temperature and reduce moisture in the attic somewhat, in conjunction with the gable vents.

Don´t make this attic insulation boo boo!

In an effort to fully insulate the attic floor, people sometimes push the insulation deep into the corner where the roof meets the attic floor. Not good! This causes the lowest part of the roof to be colder than the rest of the roof, setting up the possible formation of an ice dam. Inspect your insulation, and if you see this occurring, pull the insulation back away from the inside of the roof so air can reach it. If you have blown-in, loose insulation, there are styrofoam dams, available at most lumber yards, that can be installed between the floor joists to hold the insulation back from the inside of the roof.

If you have soffit vents, the same holds true. Insulation should not block the flow of cool air up from the soffit to the ridge vent.

What about roof mounted heating cables?

Heating cables mounted on the roof are designed to form a path for melted snow to travel through an ice dam. The will not work if an ice dam forms above them. They will also not work if you forget to turn them on.

The biggest downside to these is that you cannot leave them running all the time, or they will quickly burn out. So you must remember to turn them on and off. And if the electrical power goes out... forget it!

Most homes do not have electrical outlets located outside the house at the roof line to plug the heating cables into. Whether you do the job yourself or have an electrician do it for you, be sure to put a shutoff that controls all the cables at a convenient location. Also, be sure that the circuit is protected with a GFCI (ground fault circuit interrupter).

Having a properly insulated and ventilated attic is a better solution, because it requires no ongoing involvement from you! So weigh the comparative costs of each solution before choosing one or the other!&

Can anything be done to the outside of the roof to stop ice dams?

Not to the roofing itself. But a properly installed roof can eliminate much of the damage they cause. Even if you did everything recommended above, ice dams might still form under severe conditions. Modification or replacement of your roof is the only sure way to permanently stop the leakage. The trick is to get your roofer to do the job right and not cut corners. Ditto if you do it yourself!

Roofing is one of the easiest parts of building a house, but is labor intensive and potentially dangerous. It is also a place where contractors tend to skimp, because the effects of a poorly installed roof may not become apparent for years... long after the check clears! A quality roof installation in the snow belt should have four components: proper flashing, ice and water barrier installed on all roof edges and over all valleys (places where two roof lines meet), rolled asphalt underlayment over the entire roof, and quality roofing shingles with the proper overlap.

If you have one specific problem area, though, and your roof is otherwise sound, you can do the following repair procedure to fix the local problem:

* Remove all roofing material from 3 to 6 feet back from the lower edge of the roof. Repair or replace damaged or rotten plywood underlayment as necessary.

* Install the self-adhesive ice and water barrier over the plywood. Since the barrier is three feet wide, install two overlapping courses if you want extra waterproofing or if the slope of your roof is low.

* Reinstall new roofing shingles.

If there is flashing in the leaking area, such as in a valley, and you suspect a problem with it, the basics of the repair are as follows:

* Remove roofing material around the flashing giving yourself an additional two or three feet of exposed underlayment. Do repairs to the plywood underlayment as necessary.

* Install ice and water barrier across the area to be flashed, and cover all exposed underlayment with it. Then, install the flashing, followed by the shingles. The ice and water barrier will act as a diaper under the flashing if the roof cement that seals the flashing fails after a few years. And it will fail... eventually.

In this sort of repair, there is no need to install an asphalt felt underlayment. However, if you were to decide to replace the entire roof, you should cover the entire roof, including the ice and water barrier, with the asphalt-impregnated felt. CAUTION: Be sure that the ice and water barrier will not chemically react with the asphalt!!

Other methods for ice dam removal and prevention... Mechanical removal of an ice dam could well destroy your roof. However there are a few ways to improve the situation...

1) Removing the snow from the roof can help slow down dam growth. On very low–sloped or flat roofs, some folks shovel off all the snow! On a roof with a greater pitch, removing three or four feet of snow above the roof line will slow down the growth of the dam. There is a special tool for removing snow called a roof rake. Here´s a shot of NH doing a little snow removal. Roof rakes are great to use if the show is light and not very crusty. They also are somewhat dangerous to use on ladders. So be warned! (Yes, I know, a sometimes a man's gotta do what a man's gotta do!)

2) Chisel grooves into the dam to allow the water behind it to drain off. This is a good emergency measure... especially if rain or a sudden thaw is coming! Careful with those those shingles!!

3) Suggested by a reader... fill an old pair of your pantyhose (or, if you don´t own any, borrow some) with calcium chloride snow melt and lay it across the dam. If will help to melt the dam and also keep that area of the roof clear. DO NOT USE ROCK SALT... it will stain the roof and siding! BE CAREFUL WITH THIS ONE 'cause if the dam is too big you may increase the pool of water behind it! Best for small dams or prevention. Also a good idea to scrape the snow off the roof first.

4) One reader suggested using a torpedo-style heater strapped to the plumbing vent pipe! He turns it on and off from inside to keep that troublesome area of his roof clear. He doesn't think it is a fire hazard, since these heaters are considered safe. OK... I leave that judgment to you!

Nassau County, New York - Roof Leaks, Roof Repair Service, New Roof Installation, We will fix your Roof.

Albertson 11507
Alden Manor 11003
Atlantic Beach 11509
Baldwin 11510
Bayville 11709
Bellerose Village 11001
Bellmore 11710
Bethpage 11714
Brookville 11545
Brookville 11548
Carle Place 11514
Cedarhurst 11516
East Atlantic Beach 11561
East Meadow 11554
East Norwich 11732
East Rockaway 11518
East Williston 11596
Elmont 11003
Far Rockaway 11096
Farmingdale 11735
Farmingdale 11736
Farmingdale 11737
Farmingdale 11774
Floral Park 11001
Floral Park 11002
Floral Park 11003
Franklin Square 11010
Freeport 11520
Garden City 11530
Garden City Park 11040
Glen Cove 11542
Glen Head 11545
Glenwood Landing 11547
Great Neck 11020
Great Neck 11021
Great Neck 11022
Great Neck 11023
Great Neck 11024
Great Neck 11025
Great Neck 11026
Great Neck 11027
Greenvale 11548
Hempstead 11549
Hempstead 11550
Hempstead 11551
Hewlett 11557
Hicksville 11801
Hicksville 11802
Hicksville 11815
Hicksville 11819
Hicksville 11854
Hicksville 11855
Hillside Manor 11040
Inwood 11096
Island Park 11558
Jericho 11753
Jericho 11853
Kings Point 11024
Lake Success 11020
Lawrence 11559
Levittown 11756
Lido Beach 11561
Locust Valley 11560
Long Beach 11561
Lynbrook 11563
Malverne 11565
Manhasset 11030
Manhasset Hills 11040
Massapequa 11758
Massapequa Park 11762
Meacham 11003
Merrick 11566
Mill Neck 11765
Mineola 11501
New Hyde Park 11040
New Hyde Park 11041
New Hyde Park 11042
New Hyde Park 11043
New Hyde Park 11044
New Hyde Park 11099
North Baldwin 11510
North Bellmore 11710
North Hills 11040
North Massapequa 11758
North Merrick 11566
North New Hyde Park 11040
North New Hyde Park 11042
Oceanside 11572
Old Bethpage 11804
Old Brookville 11545
Old Brookville 11548
Old Westbury 11568
Oyster Bay 11771
Plainview 11803
Plandome 11030
Point Lookout 11569
Port Washington 11050
Port Washington 11051
Port Washington 11052
Port Washington 11053
Port Washington 11054
Port Washington 11055
Rockville Centre 11570
Rockville Centre 11571
Rockville Centre 11572
Roosevelt 11575
Roslyn 11576
Roslyn Heights 11577
Sands Point 11050
Sea Cliff 11579
Seaford 11783
South Floral Park 11001
South Hempstead 11550
Stewart Manor 11530
Syosset 11773
Syosset 11791
Uniondale 11553
Uniondale 11555
Uniondale 11556
Upper Brookville 11545
Upper Brookville 11732
Upper Brookville 11771
Valley Stream 11580
Valley Stream 11581
Valley Stream 11582
Wantagh 11793
Wantagh 11568
Wantagh 11590
Wantagh 11594
Wantagh 11595
Wantagh 11597
West Hempstead 11552
Williston Park 11596
Woodbury 11797
Woodmere 11598

Suffolk County, New York - Roof Leaks, Roof Repair Service, New Roof Installation, We will fix your Roof.

Amagansett 11930
Amity Harbor 11701
Amityville 11701
Amityville 11708
Aquebogue 11931
Babylon 11702
Babylon 11703
Babylon 11704
Babylon 11707
Baiting Hollow 11933
Bay Shore 11706
Bayport 11705
Bellport 11713
Blue Point 11715
Bohemia 11716
Brentwood 11717
Bridgehampton 11932
Brightwaters 11718
Brookhaven 11719
Calverton 11933
Captree Island 11702
Center Moriches 11934
Centereach 11720
Centerport 11721
Central Islip 11722
Central Islip 11749
Cherry Grove 11782
Cold Spring Harbor 11724
Commack 11725
Copiague 11726
Coram 11727
Cutchogue 11935
Davis Park 11772
Deer Park 11729
Dix Hills 11746
East Hampton 11937
East Islip 11730
East Marion 11939
East Islip 11730
East Moriches 11940
East Northport 11731
East Patchogue 11772
Eastport 11941
East Quogue 11942
East Setauket 11733
East Yaphank 11967
Edgewood 11717
Elwood 11731
Fair Harbor 11706
Farmingdale 11735
Farmingville 11738
Fire Island Pines 11782
Fishers Island 06390
Flanders 11901
Fort Salonga 11768
Gilgo Beach 11702
Great River 11739
Greenlawn 11740
Greenport 11944
Halesite 11743
Hampton Bays 11946
Hauppauge 11749
Hauppauge 11788
Head of the Harbor 11780
Holbrook 11741
Holtsville 00501
Holtsville 00544
Holtsville 11742
Huntington 11743
Huntington Station 11746
Huntington Station 11747
Huntington Station 11750
Islandia 11749
Islandia 11760
Islip 11751
Islip Terrace 11752
Jamesport 11947
Kings Park 11754
Kismet 11706
Lake Grove 11755
Lake Ronkonkoma 11779
Laurel 11948
Lindenhurst 11757
Lloyd Harbor 11743
Manorville 11949
Mastic 11950
Mastic Beach 11951
Mattituck 11952
Medford 11763
Melville 11747
Melville 11750
Melville 11775
Middle Island 11953
Miller Place 11764
Montauk 11954
Moriches 11955
Mount Sinai 11766
Nesconset 11767
New Suffolk 11956
Nissequogue 11780
North Babylon 11703
Northport 11768
Oak Beach 11702
Oakdale 11769
Oak Island 11702
Ocean Beach 11770
Orient 11957
Patchogue 11772
Peconic 11958
Port Jefferson 11777
Port Jefferson Station 11776
Port Jefferson Station 11777
Quogue 11959
Remsenburg 11960
Ridge 11961
Riverhead 11901
Rocky Point 11778
Ronkonkoma 11749
Ronkonkoma 11779
Sag Harbor 11963
Sagaponack 11962
Saint James 11780
Saltaire 11706
Sayville 11782
Selden 11784
Setauket 11733
Shelter Island 11964
Shelter Island Heights 11965
Shirley 11967
Shoreham 11786
Smith Point 11967
Smithtown 11787
Smithtown 11788
Sound Beach 11789
South Jamesport 11970
South Setauket 11720
Southampton 11968
Southampton 11969
Southold 11971
Speonk 11972
Stony Brook 11790
Stony Brook 11794
Upton 11973
Wading River 11792
Wainscott 11975
Water Mill 11976
West Babylon 11704
West Babylon 11707
West Brentwood 11717
West Gilgo Beach 11702
West Islip 11795
West Sayville 11796
Westhampton 11977
Westhampton Beach 11978
Wheatley Heights 11798
Wyandanch 11798
Yaphank 11980

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