We’re talking to a lot of homeowners who’ve gotten a new roof in the last few years, and they still ended up with ice dams. They’re confused because they thought a new roof would prevent ice damming, and obviously that’s not true.
The confusions starts when anyone assumes that a roof is a stand-alone product, rather than one component integrated into a very complex structure. Maybe it’s a little easier to visualize a car — if you’ve got an engine, can you drive the car? Well you can if the engine is connected to the fuel line, the steering wheel, the ignition and … you get the idea.
Roofing Companies Aren’t Builders
Roofing companies are experts in roofs, from choices in roofing materials to how to install them. Roofers aren’t builders, so they don’t always understand how the roof is connected to the rest of the house — structurally or from a heating, venting and air conditioning (HVAC) perspective.
The purpose of a roof is to shed water, water that is flowing downward because of the law of gravity. The simple explanation for why ice dams form, and why it results in water entering your home is:
- The roof temperature above your house (heated space) is warmer than the temperature of the roof over the soffits which extend past the edge of your house.
- Roofs aren’t built to handle water that is moving up the roof which happens when ice dams block water from flowing down.
You can make home improvements to address #1 but you still need a solution, think of it as an insurance policy, to prevent ice dams from forming when these efforts aren’t enough to prevent ice damming.
Why Roofs Don’t Prevent Ice Damming
So there are two problems to solve — you need to reduce the heat reaching your roof and you need to deal with any conditions that cause ice dams. Of course you’re saying, but if I fix the first problem then no ice dams should occur. In theory that’s true, but your ability to create a truly “cold roof” is unlikely because of the cost.
In fact I’ve never priced out a cold roof as our climate doesn’t warrant the investment which likely can be three or four times the cost of a traditional roof, including the added framing to support the increased weight of materials. And don’t be fooled by experts who talk about creating a cold roof with a little bit of this and that. To begin to understand what a cold roof means, watch Tim Carter’s video on a Cold Roof System.
Wish I could tell you it was possible to prevent ice damming, but it’s not without a significant investment that makes sense in areas that get two hundred inches of snow, or remain below freezing for four or more months each year.
You can however reduce the risk of ice damming, with the added bonus that you’ll also lower your heating costs because you less conditioned air will escape into the attic. Here are the home improvements you can make to stop warm air from escaping into your attic:
- Seal all gaps between your top floor (warm air) and the attic. This includes light fixtures and anywhere you have electrical wires or plumbing crossing this boundary.
- Upgrade your insulation which slows down the loss of warm air between your house and the attic.
- Improve your ventilation to remove as much warm air as you can from the attic. The arrows in the diagram above, from Fine Home Building’s article, A Crash Course in Roof Venting, show how an attic should be ventilated.
Note: You’ll want to read the full article (or download the PDF) to learn about the different types of roof venting.
You’ve got homeowners insurance, right? And maybe your insurance company has already paid to repair damage to your home from ice dams. They won’t keep paying claims forever, so like other forms of insurance, it’s time to invest in a solution that stops the formation of ice dams.
When you install our system, you’re getting a lot more than heat cables. We make sure that our system delivers enough heat to the vulnerable parts of your roof (eaves and valleys), that it’s impossible for ice to form. You might think it’s expensive until you look at the cost of repairs. It’s also possible that after multiple claims because you didn’t prevent ice damming, you end up with your homeowner insurance going into a pool for assigned risk with higher rates.
Learn more about our proven technology, or call us at 877-705-1356.