Stained ceilings. Mold in the attic. Peeling and cracking paint. Rotting trim. Staining between clapboards. We see the telltale signs of roof leaks caused by winter ice dams all the time, and it can be very costly for sellers who face major repairs. The only way to prevent the damage is to keep the water from getting under the roof, but when the snow melts on the roof and re-freezes at the edge, water is trapped and has no where else to go. Here’s our ice dam “Prevention Hierarchy”:
1. Newer roofs have durable ice-and-water barrier covering most or all of the sheathing. If you need a new roof, get one, being sure your installer covers all the vulnerable spots.
If you’re not getting a new roof:
2. Max out your insulation. Call MassSave for a free audit, and do all the recommended insulating to prevent the snow from melting when it hits the roof. (My 1890’s farmhouse had as much snow on the house roof as the porch roof, 24 hours after our last snow. I was jumping for joy!)
If you can’t insulate (any more)
3. Keep the snow off the roof if temps are forecast to drop. Remember, it’s the melting and refreezing that causes the problem, so by raking the roof with a roof rake (with guards to protect the shingles and extenders long enough to reach at least a few feet up onto the roof) you can keep snow off the most vulnerable spots.
If you can’t rake the roof,
4. Get heating coils installed. Coils are great where you can’t reach the roof to rake or where dams form in valleys. You will need to switch them on when needed, to melt the snow and keep it running into the gutters.
Good luck and may your roof stay dry this winter!