icicles forming on your gutters is the first indication ice dams may be an issue

What Are Ice Dams and How to Get Rid of Them

When the snow and ice start accumulating on you roof in winter, one of the affects are icicles hanging from your gutters. Yes, they may be pretty to look at, but icicles can loosen or tear off your gutters, and also create ice dams, resulting in water backing up into your home and creating all kinds of expensive repairs.

Snow covered roofs and freezing temperatures in winter allow icicles to form. This leads to ice dams: Thick ridges of solid ice that build up along the eves of the home. The issue has little or nothing to do with your roof or roof shingles. Blockage of ice in your gutters may be causing water to travel in a path it would not normally travel. Like a clogged toilet, the water will not travel down, it will only travel up (over your gutters) and into your home.

diagram of how ice dams form

“Once you take the obstruction away, the water will flow normally down as it should. Over time, warmer temperatures will naturally melt the obstruction (the ice) and it will eventually flow naturally as it has in the past.”

Andrew Ferrara – Owner and President of A-Top Roofing & Construction

Do not wait until it is too late to take care of icicles hanging off your house. All of those icicles add unwanted weight onto your rafters and gutters. The long-term effects of ice dams can lead to warped floors, sagging ceilings, peeling paints, and soggy insulation; all of which can lead to mold and mildew issues further down the road.

Getting rid of ice dams for good is simple, in principle: Just keep the entire roof the same temperature as the eaves. You do that by increasing ventilation, adding insulation, and sealing off every possible air leak that might warm the underside of the roof.

Ways You Can Mitigate Damage From Ice Dams in the Future:

By taking care of common trouble spots, listed here in order of priority, you should enjoy dam-free winters and use less energy to boot:

  1. Ventilate Eaves and Ridge. A ridge vent paired with continuous soffit vents circulates cold air under the entire roof. Both ridge and soffit vents should have the same size openings and provide at least 1 square foot of opening for every 300 square feet of attic floor. Place baffles at the eaves to maintain a clear path for the airflow from the soffit vents.
  2. Attic Hatch. An unsealed attic hatch or whole-house fan is a massive opening for heat to escape. Cover them with weather stripped caps made from foil-faced foam board held together with aluminum tape.
  3. Exhaust to the Outside. Make sure that the ducts connected to the kitchen, bathroom, and dryer vents all lead outdoors through either the roof or walls, but never through the soffit.
  4. Add Insulation. More insulation on the attic floor keeps the heat where it belongs. To find how much insulation your attic needs, check with your local building department.
  5. Flash Around Chimneys. Bridge the gap between chimney and house framing with L-shaped steel flashing held in place with unbroken beads of a fire-stop sealant. Using canned spray foam or insulation isn’t fire safe.
  6. Seal and Insulate Ducts. Spread fiber-reinforced mastic on the joints of HVAC ducts and exhaust ducts. Cover them entirely with R-5 or R-6 foil-faced fiberglass.
  7. Caulk Penetrations. Seal around electrical cables and vent pipes with a fire-stop sealant. Also, look for any spots where light shines up from below or the insulation is stained black by the dirt from passing air.

Ice damming is a common problem for many older homes in winter. You may be in need of repairs dur to damage from ice damming. Always hire a licensed professional who carries insurance and can help you navigate insurance issues or claims.


Located in Manalapan, NJ, A-Top Roofing and Construction has earned a reputation for beautifying homes throughout the Central Jersey area for over 30 years. We service Monmouth County, parts of Middlesex County and Northern Ocean County. Our full range of services include roofing, siding, gutters, windows, skylights and mold remediation. Call (732) 446-6341 for more info or click here to contact us.

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