Massive icicle buildup and other warning signs your roof, walls and ceilings could be in danger 

What sounds like a term for North Pole glaciers is actually a common problem for homeowners. Ice dams are something you may not know about...until it’s too late. This icy build-up can quickly become a major problem, but it can be prevented.

What Is It?

Those pretty icicles you see hanging from your roof can be a sign that an ice dam may have formed. Snow on the roof should melt slowly and naturally as the outside temperature increases. When warm air in your attic causes snow and ice on your roof to melt too quickly, the water runs down the cold eaves towards the gutters where it refreezes. The ice causes a blockage that can send water back up and under your roof and cause damage to the attic, ceilings, and walls.

3 Keys to Preventing Damage from Ice Dams

  1. Insulation. The problem most likely isn’t your roof–it’s your attic. An attic that is too warm will heat the roof causing the snow and ice to melt faster. Proper insulation will keep warm air from escaping from the lower levels of your home into the attic space, and as an added bonus, will lower your energy costs and save you money. If you are unsure how much insulation you need in your attic you can use CertainTeed’s Insulation Calculator to find the right amount of insulation recommended for your space.


  2. Ventilation. A proper ventilation system in the attic – consisting of balanced intake and exhaust ventilation – will help prevent temperature fluctuations and keep the air in the attic naturally cool year-round.  Although it is sometimes overlooked, adequate ventilation is an important part of any roofing project. If you are considering or in the middle of installing a new roof, make sure to ask your roofing contractor about his ventilation plan. To prep for that conversation and find out what you need to know –  check out this video.
  3. Roofing underlayment. A waterproofing underlayment placed under the asphalt shingles will prevent water from finding its way back into your home. For ultimate protection choose a product, like CertainTeed’s WinterGuard® underlayment, that is warranted against leaks from ice dams.  

When it comes to ice dams, preparation is your best defense. However, if you have an ice dam right now, you need a more immediate solution. 

 The Damage is Done: Now What?

If you’re learning about ice dams the hard way (suddenly, there’s a drip coming from the ceiling on your first floor!) it’s time to call a professional. Most roofing contractors in the Northeast and other cold climates are familiar with ice dams and can advise you on the best solution.

These solutions may include:

  • Steaming parts of the roof to melt away the ice dam
  • Raking the snow off the roof
  • Breaking channels into the ice on the gutters to allow proper drainage

Keep in mind, these solutions are for the pros, and you should never attempt unblocking an ice dam yourself. This is not a DIY project. Also note, just knocking down icicle build up is dangerous and won’t necessarily solve the problem. 

While these solutions may help remove an ice dam, they won’t stop another ice dam from forming when the next snow storm hits. Once again, prevention is key.

Ice dams can damage your roof, causing leaks throughout your home, and leave you with a list of repairs to keep you busy throughout the winter. But with a little knowledge about proper attic insulation and ventilation, you can prevent ice dams (and lower energy costs. Score!).

Click here for more information on CertainTeed roofing products. 

Click here for more information on CertainTeed insulation products