Luxury Real Estate Maintenance Services


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Article by Andrew C. Hopkinson CEO Fox Hill Luxury Real Estate Services

Photography by Andrew C. Hopkinson

How to Prevent Ice Damage to Your Luxury Real Estate

By Andrew C. Hopkinson CEO Fox Hill Luxury Real Estate Services

December 2022

Ice dams may appear harmless – and may even look pretty – but they can cause damage to your

home. Read on to learn how to remove ice dams and how to prevent them from forming in the

first place.

What is an ice dam?

An ice dam is a wall of ice that forms at the edge of the roof, typically at the gutters or soffit.

Aptly named, they act as a dam for the water created by melting snow and prevent it from

draining into the gutters. When this is the case, water will find its way into your house.

What causes ice dams?

For an ice dam to form, there must be snow on the roof. The higher surfaces of the roof’s surface

must be above 32°F, and lower surfaces below 32°F. A dam will grow on the parts of the roof

that are below freezing.

Poor ventilation and temperature control in the attic can also cause ice dams. Excess warm air in

the attic can cause the snow on the roof to melt regardless of the temperature outside. Recessed

lighting, skylights, complex roof designs and heating ducts in the attic increase the chances of an

ice dam developing.

What are signs that you have an ice dam?

Having icicles doesn’t necessarily mean your roof is harboring an ice dam. Small icicles are

usually harmless. The telltale sign to watch out for is seeing ice where it shouldn’t be, like on the

edges of your roof, through your soffit, or behind your gutters.

If not addressed early, ice dam damage can be significant. The water ice dams let into your house

damages insulation, rendering it ineffective. When the water freezes it can cause structural

damage, lifting shingles and pulling gutters off the house. Ultimately, ice dams create a cycle of

dampness, freezing and mold that cause damage to your home and your health.

How to prevent ice dams:

Properly winterizing your roof is for ice dam prevention. Consider these precautions.

  • Have your gutters cleaned before winter.
  • Keep your attic well ventilated, so it stays cold, and properly ventilate the roof and eaves.
  • Insulate the attic floor to reduce the amount of heat rising from within the house.
  • Rake or shovel snow off the roof before it freezes or hire a professional roofer to clear your roof.
  • Create an air barrier between the house and attic with a foil-faced cover over an uninsulated attic hatch or whole-house fan opening.
  • Install a water-repellent roof membrane.

Ice Dam Prevention

8 Things you can do to prevent Ice Dams from forming on your home

We described how to prevent ice damage to your home once an ice dam has formed. Perhaps a

better question is what steps to take for ice dam prevention in the first place. There are many

things you can do to help with ice dam prevention.

Here are specific strategies for minimizing the likelihood of ice dams on your home:

1) Have the snow removed from your roof, in particular if you start to see icicles

forming. The cost of doing this work a few times a winter pales in comparison to the cost

of dealing with water damage.

2) Check the attic or rafter space for adequate insulation. One of our qualified insulation

consultants can provide this service for you. Just call for an appointment. Proper

insulation is a major ally in ice dam prevention.

3) Make certain your roof system has good ventilation for appropriate ice dam prevention.

Proper ventilation will allow for the movement of air through the roof system (i.e., the

attic and rafter spaces). This reduces the amount of warm air that builds up in the attic or

rafter spaces and thus reduces the melting snow that causes ice dams.

4) Make sure all penetrations through your ceiling are sealed and insulated. Bath fans,

plumbing vents and recessed ceiling cans are some of the biggest culprits in allowing

warm air to get into the attic. Think of it this way. If you were to pressurize your home

with hot air, imagine all of the areas that air would want to escape into the attic. For

optimal ice dam prevention, seal and insulate them all.

5) Add heat tape to the lower few feet of roof in areas where ice dams keep occurring from

year to year. It’s best to address insulation and ventilation before making this move

because no amount of heat tape will compensate for poor ice dam prevention in those


6) If you have recessed lights in your ceiling below an unheated space such as an attic or a

truss cavity, try to minimize their use. Likewise, avoid turning on your any recessed

lights in the exterior soffits of your home (if present). Recessed lights generate a

tremendous amount of heat and are seldom insulated and sealed properly. The net result

is heat escaping into spaces where heat should not be during the winter. Additionally,

replacing heat-generating incandescent and halogen bulbs with compact florescent or

LED bulbs is an easy way to reduce the amount of unwanted heat in your attic or truss


7) If you have rooms with vaulted ceilings try to keep them a bit cooler than the rest of the

home, if possible, in particular if these spaces are seldom used. A basic ice dam

prevention technique is to close off the heating supplies and returns to the extent that you

are comfortable in areas associated with past ice dams.

8) Install heat tape. Heat tape, otherwise known as heat cable or roof de-icing cable, is a

relatively affordable solution to ice dams when compared to architectural solutions such

as insulation. There are certain circumstances when heat tape makes the most sense.

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