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How to Prevent Ice Dams

    Photo of ice on the roof
    Photo of ice on the roof

    How to Prevent Ice Dams

    Here in Chicago, temperatures are in flux all the time.  One day, you’re ditching your gloves and hat at home because the sun’s out and temperatures are on the rise, and the next day you’re groaning at the subzero weather as you walk out of your home wearing three layers of coats.

    The up-and-down temperatures in the Midwest are more than just aggravating wildcards for your attire choices – they also pose a big threat to your home’s safety.  Specifically, temperatures that melt the snow one day and turn the left-over liquid into ice the next can cause ice dams to form on your roof.

    An ice dams are caused by a combination of poor attic or roof ventilation and a warm attic space. They can also be exacerbated by a clogged or poorly draining gutter system.  An ice dam is a ridge of ice that forms at the edge of a roof and prevents melting snow (water) from draining off the roof. The water that backs up behind the dam can leak into a home and cause damage to walls, ceilings, insulation, and other areas.

    In other words, ice dams are bad news for your home, and they pose structural and sanitary threats if they are ignored. In the best cases, ice dams cause simple water damage to your roof’s drywall which could accumulate mold. In the worst cases, ice dams cause gutter damage and roof collapse, along with serious water damage to your home and belongings. If you notice ceiling leaks or hear creaks or pops, you’ll want to call a professional right away! Here at ServiceMaster Restoration by Simons, we are equipped to help you remove and fix an ice dam.

    Hopefully, ice damming will not be a problem for you and your family as we head into the homestretch of winter. Here are some of our top tips to help prevent ice dams on your roof and keep disaster at bay.

    Increase Ventilation

    The most effective long-term solutions are to keep heat out of the attic and to promote ventilation under the roof deck to keep it as cold as possible. The underside of the roof deck must be close to the temperature of the exterior side of the roof.  In order to increase ventilation, you might want to think about a soffit-and-ridge vent system.  It usually requires insulation baffles installed at the lower side of the roof,…MORE above the exterior walls. The baffles hold back the insulation by a couple of inches, creating a channel for air to flow freely past the insulation. Without them, thick insulation can block the air coming in through the soffit vents, eliminating airflow.  If you are a home restoration DIY extraordinaire, this can be done as a project over a weekend.  If you – like most people! – are not, give us a call to come take a look and see if we can give your insulation system an upgrade.

    Minimize heat sources in the attic

    Proper ventilation alone will not prevent ice dams if you have active heat rejection into the attic. Heat from uninsulated or leaky recessed can lights in the room below add heat to the attic from the light source (light bulb) and allow heated air from the living…MORE space to escape into the attic. Other potential heat sources in the attic include uninsulated ductwork and improperly vented bathroom exhaust fans.

    Increase attic floor insulation

    Prevent heat from your living space from warming your attic with proper amounts of insulation in the attic floor. Sealing air leaks in the ceiling is just as — if not more — important than insulation.

    Keep gutters clean

    Get rid of all those fall leaves before the snow comes. Also make sure your downspouts are functioning properly. Melted snow has nowhere to go if the gutters are clogged.

    Install heat tape

    Electric heat tape can help in limited situations with light snow. However, heat tape during heavy snow can cause an ice dam to move further up the roof or make it worse, especially if the gutters are not cleared. Proper installation is important: the tape should serpentine along the roof edge and run inside the gutter and down into the downspout.

    Stay on top of roof snow removal

    If you keep the snow that piles up on your roof to a minimum, you’re less likely to have enough moisture on the roof to go through the melt-and-freeze cycle. Invest in an aluminum roof rake with an extendable handle to help you rake the snow off your roof after heavy snowfalls.  Removing at least the lower 4 feet of snow from the roof edge can help you prevent ice dams from forming. You can do this from the ground – never get on your roof to remove the snow!

    Even if you follow our tips, disaster can still strike. Make sure you call the professionals at ServiceMaster Restoration by Simons right away if you suspect you have an ice dam forming, or if you are worried about your roof’s ventilation system. Our professionals care about keeping you, your family, and your home safe this winter!

    ServiceMaster Restoration By Simons is a women-owned and family run company serving Chicago, Oak Park, River Forest, and the North Shore. The business provides disaster restoration services for damages caused by water, fire, flooding, mold remediation, and a wide range of interior specialty cleaning (hoarder/clutter, post construction, carpet & upholstery) to residential and commercial customers residing in Chicago, Oak Park, River Forest and the North Shore. For more information, give us a call at 773-376-1110 or visit


    • Simon Sam

      About ServiceMaster Restoration By Simons
      Restoration By Simons is an MBE/WBE certified firm and family-run company serving both Cook and Lake County, Illinois. Recently, the company was awarded a variety of honors, including the SB100 Best of Small Business Award Winner 2021, Bronze Stevie® Award in the Female Entrepreneur of the Year category in the 18th annual Stevie Awards for Women in Business, recipient of the 2020 Better Business Bureau's Torch Award for Marketplace Ethics, and the recipient of the 2020 Skokie Business of the Year Award, Honorable Mention Category. Restoration By Simons provides disaster restoration services including water and flood damage restoration, fire and smoke damage restoration, mold remediation, to residential and commercial customers in both Cook and Lake County IL.

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