Ice dams prevent melting snow from draining from your roof. This can cause serious damage to your insulation, ceilings and walls if the melted water seeps inside. This winter’s heavy snowstorms mixed with our chilly New England winters can cause these to develop. You can protect yourself against potential damage, but only if you understand what does and does not cause ice dams. These are the ice dam myths you should ignore:

Myth 1: Gutters cause ice dams.

How it goes: gutters give ice dams an anchor to hold on. Take off your gutters, no more dams!

The reality: Ice dams occur when your roof gets over 32 degrees, which is warm enough to melt snow. Gutters can lead to larger ice dams because they provide a larger cold area for ice to refreeze, but you’d have ice dams either way. Take down your gutters and you lose the ability to keep water away from your foundation.

Myth 2: Shoveling snow off the edge of the roof prevents ice dams.

How it goes: ice dams won’t form on the edges of your roof if you remove the snow from that area.

The reality: ice dams form wherever water refreezes. So, removing a one-foot strip of snow from the edge doesn’t do anything if it’s melting further up. Removing all of the snow takes away a crucial ice dam ingredient. But, shoveling snow on the roof can be dangerous and should be avoided when possible.

Myth 3: Water shield membranes will prevent ice dams.

How it goes: Replace your shingles with ones that have water shield membranes to shed water and keep ice dams from forming.

The reality: These products are not intended to prevent damage from standing water. They’re designed to cut down on problems with condensation under the shingles during the summer.

Myth 4: You can prevent ice dams with metal edging.

How it goes: install a metal rim around your roof eaves to keep ice dams from forming.

The reality: on roofs with metal edging, an ice dam can break off and then a new dam will form at or above your wall line. This can cause worse leaks and also cause damage to your shingles at the edge of the metal edging.

Myth 5: Ice dams are caused by solar radiation.

How it goes: there’s no point in sealing or insulating the attic, since sunlight on snow or a bare roof can cause ice dams

The reality: it is true, solar radiation during New England’s sunny and chilly winter days can contribute to snow melt and ice dams. Inspect regularly to ensure they aren’t forming. But, heat leaks from inside the house are a far more important factor. Install quality insulation to keep heat from melting snow on the roof. If your house is up to code, the roof can take the weight.

Don’t fall for crackpot solutions that provide no protection. By installing the insulation that can prevent heat leakage into your attic and checking your roof regularly, you can keep ice dams away and prevent the leaks that can cause internal damage to your home.

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