One of the biggest risks to your roof and home's structure during the winter is the formation of ice dams. They do not just occur from freezing temperatures, but the difference between cold and hot temperatures. Ice dams are formed when snow on your roof melts due to the warmth coming through your attic or top floor of your home, which then causes it to run down the roof and re-freeze, turning into icicles at the edge of the roof. The water may also end up in your gutters, where it freezes and blocks the gutters.
If you are having trouble with ice dams, here are some tips to prevent them or to help get rid of them.
Reduce Heat Sources
Ice dams can occur from heat from the sun melting the snow, but it is more likely that it is heat sources in your attic. Therefore, the best way to prevent ice dams is by removing these heat sources. Check the temperature of your attic, and if it seems very high, get an attic fan to help cool off this area. A whole house fan can also work for the same use, but you probably don't need cool air in your entire house in the winter. An attic fan should work just fine.
Improve the Attic Ventilation
Another problem with the heat in the attic causing ice dams is that it is not properly ventilated. This is often the source of it getting too hot and retaining that heat. Make sure there are attic vents that are in current working order, and get your attic inspected for ventilation if you need to. A roofer or HVAC repairman will both be able to give you tips for your attic ventilation.
Clean the Gutters
While cleaning the gutters doesn't prevent ice dams on the edge of the roof, it can help prevent them in your gutters. If your gutters are already clogged when the snow melts, the water should flow right through your gutters and out the spout. However, if they are clogged with debris, the water will sit in the gutters, which can cause it to freeze due to the low temperatures outside. It may even lead to needing to replace your gutters due to the damage they can cause.
Insulate the Attic
Not only is ventilation important in your attic and roof area, but insulation is as well. With proper insulation, the heat in your attic remains only in your attic and does not venture outside to the roof, causing the snow to melt. Have a contractor come out to be sure your insulation is up-to-date.