Ice dams, those large formations of ice and icicles that appear on the edge of your roof in winter, might look attractive -- but they're actually very damaging. They can cause the shingles to peel away from your roof, allowing leaks to develop. They can even bend and damage your gutters. If you've had ice dams in the past, there are a few steps you should take to prevent them from appearing again. Thankfully, these steps don't cost a fortune.
Clean your gutters.
One reason ice dams may be forming is that when snow does melt and trickle down your roof, it is not draining out of your gutters as it should be. Cleaning your gutters out will fix this problem. If you're confident on a ladder, you can climb up there yourself. Use a trowel (or even just a gloved hand) to scoop any leaves and debris out of the gutters. Then, pour some pitchers of water down the gutters to rinse any lingering debris away. You can even use the garden hose for this purpose.
If you're not confident on a ladder, hire a gutter cleaning company to come tackle this task for you in the fall. For a standard, single-story home, you can expect to pay between $70 and $200 for this service. A two-story home may cost slightly more. For more information, contact a company like Nothing But Clean Window Cleaning.
Add insulation to your attic.
A lack of insulation in the attic is a huge contributor to ice dam formation. Heat escapes from the poorly insulated attic, melting the snow near the peak. The water trickles down and re-freezes on the cooler edges of the roof. Head to your local home improvement store, and purchase a couple batts of fiberglass insulation. You want the kind without the foil backing. Unroll these on top of the insulation that's already in your attic. Make sure you place them perpendicular to the existing layer of insulation.
If the insulation in your attic is breaking down or discolored, you should replace it entirely. Fiberglass insulation costs between 25 and 75 cents per square foot, making this a low-cost upgrade that's really worth it.
Invest in a snow rake.
Even if your gutters are clean and your attic is insulated, ice dams may form when one day is really warm, causing snow to melt, and the next day is cold, causing it to re-freeze. If you buy a snow rake, you can rake snow off of the roof when temperatures are expected to rise. A snow rake looks like a regular garden rake with a super-long handle. Expect to pay between $35 and $110 for a snow rake.
Spending a little money on completing the steps above will save you a lot more later on by preventing costly roof damage.