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November 15, 2017

How to prevent and remove ice dams on log homes

With the seasons finally changing here in California, it’s time to get serious about preparing your log home for winter. We’ve shared with you our tips for routine winter maintenance on the blog earlier, but for this article we’d like to dig a little deeper into a common issue that can cause some real damage down the road – ice dams.

Log homes are generally located in higher elevations where winter snow is common and can pile up on the roof. At first, the fluffy layer of snow and icicles hanging from the eaves are pretty. But with the right conditions, that layer of snow can turn into an ice dam, with the potential to harm your home, property, and even people walking underneath.

What is an ice dam?

An ice dam forms when the roof over the attic gets warm enough to melt the underside of the layer of snow on the roof. The water trickles down between the layer of snow and the shingles until it reaches the eaves, which stays cold because it extends beyond the side of the house. There, the water freezes, gradually growing into a mound of ice.

The flatter the pitch of the roof, the easier it is for an ice dam to get a grip. Gutters installed along the eaves can also trap snow and ice which can provide a foundation for ice dams to form.

Ice dam damage

As ice and snow accumulate, the melted water in the ice dam can back up under the roof shingles and leak into the attic. There, it can cause more damage by soaking insulation and trickling down through the ceiling drywall and into your living space – staining ceilings and causing long-lasting moisture damage inside the walls and ceiling. Additionally, the sheer weight of ice dams can force gutters and downspouts to pull away from the house, often damaging logs, porches, windows and more as they come down.

Under the right conditions, ice dams have been known to suddenly break free, hurling an avalanche of heavy snow and ice to the ground, crushing anything or anyone that happens to be under it.

Preventing ice dams

There are a few things you can do to lower the potential of ice dams forming on your log home or cabin getaway. Some can be done on your own, others might need help from a log home professional.

First, while you can’t control the weather, you can control heat loss within your log home. Start by sealing all points where warm air leaks from the living space into the spaces immediately below the roof sheathing. When your roof is warm, it causes the snow to melt and form ice. Keep the roof cool, and you’re less likely to encourage the growth of an ice dam.

Second, insulate your living space well enough to prevent conduction and convection of heat through the ceiling. Same principle here – keep the heat in your living area and away from the roof. Finally, vent the space between the insulation and the roof sheathing, so any heat that does leak through is carried away.

If your log home has a metal standing seam roof, another idea is to install snow guards to prevent dangerous snow and ice issues. A snow guard is a clamp-on snow break which stops snow from sliding down and off metal roofs. They are designed to clamp onto a seam or rib of a standing seam metal roof using two stainless steel set screws, which pinch the rib/seam between the two set screws and two off-setting internal cleats which make it an ideal snow break. By clamping to the roof seam itself, snow guards create an exceptionally strong barrier that will hold the snow and ice and protect people and property on the ground below.

All of these ideas are perfect to get started on if it hasn’t started snowing where you are yet. However, if your roof is already sporting a layer of snow, here’s another option – a roof rake.

A roof rake is like a shovel that is turned on its side and has a very long handle, allowing you to safely pull snow off the roof while on the ground. From a safe position (never try to climb on your roof to remove snow and ice on your own), try to remove at least the lower 4 feet of snow from the roof edge, using your roof rake, which can help prevent ice dams from forming.

If the snow and ice on your roof get to be too much, give our log home professionals at Prolog Restorations a call at 877-477-6564. We can assess the situation and provide our recommendation for ice dam removal services so that your home, and your family, can stay safe and warm this winter.