Keep ice dams at bay

Warning signs and prevention tips

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If you live in a cold climate, chances are good that at some point your home may be affected by an ice dam. Ice dams can do quite a bit of damage, but if you're aware of the situation, you can take some proactive steps to minimize or even prevent ice dams from forming.Why ice dams occur During the winter, snow builds up on the roof. If the winter temperatures are cold enough, the sun's heat is insufficient to melt off much of the snow layer, so it remains in place, and even continues to grow. In the meantime, you're using the furnace or the fireplace to keep the house warm, and some of that heat is lost into the attic. With the snow on the roof acting as an insulator, the heat from the attic begins to work on the underside of the snow layer. Soon, a thin film of melted snow -- liquid water -- appears on the underside of the snow layer, between the top of the roofing and the underside of the snow. This water runs down the top of the roof, beneath the snow, until it reaches th...