What Causes Ice Dams?

icicles1What Causes Ice Dams?

Many homeowners are experiencing large ice dams and icicles along the eaves right now and if questioned on it – most would be hard pressed to explain what is going on and why it is happening.

Many homeowners blame their gutters which are full of ice and have become ice trays and they may be right or partially right – although you can have icicles and ice dams and not have gutters on the house.

There are three main reasons that contribute to ice and ice dam formation on the eaves of residential homes.

  1. how-it-worksHome Design. The way we design and build homes in this country does not allow adequate space at the eave area to insulate and ventilate . The triangle formed from the intersection of the roof line and attic floor line is too constricted to insert enough insulation to yield an R-60 (17”) which is what the Federal requirement for Michigan Attics.
  2. Gutters. Gutters are designed to fail and do so with striking regularity. When they are not cleaned often enough leaves and debris will occlude the downspouts, which will contribute to clogged gutters and standing water which will freeze in winter and will then build up upon itself filling the gutters and then back up upon the eave and shingles.
  3. Lack of Insulation and Ventilation contributes to heat loss, manifested by the presence of icicles, ice dams and shingles visible through snow melt on the roof.

Contributing Factors

There are a number of factors at work that contribute to the formation of ice and dams.

ice-damHere are some of them.

  • Direction the House Faces
  • Direction of prevailing Winds
  • color and type of shingle or roof material
  • type and size of overhang
  • type and amount of soffit ventilation (intake)
  • type and amount of ventilation (exhaust)
  • type and amount of insulation
  • sources of heat loss into the attic from living quarters
  • size and condition of gutters and downspouts
  • presence of lack of ice and water shield

Potential Serious Problems

Here is a short list of potential problems caused by ice and icicles at the eave.

  • damage to gutters and downspouts as ice expands and contracts
  • damage to shingles with ice working up under and over them causing cracks
  • roof leaks when ice builds in gutters and works its way up underneath the drip edge and melts
  • roof leaks when ice melts forming pools of trapped water behind the ice dam
  • safety issues to occupants and visitors


  1. Re-designing and rebuilding the eave area and pulling up the roof to add insulation in cathedral or vaulted ceilings are solutions but impractical.
  2. Adding Heated Helmet electric wire to gutters and Gutter Helmet will substantially Reduce ice and ice dam formation at the eave.
  3. Adding insulation and or ventilation is the quickest, easiest and most cost effective means to deal with the heat loss issues which contribute to icicle and ice dam issues.

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Customer Reviews


"WOW! Our gutters look great! Josh And Kamrin arrived right on time and got quickly to work. They were very friendly and didn't mind our 6 year old grandson asking questions. I would recommend Atlas to our friends."

– Kathy S.

"I have been impressed with Atlas home improvement they do things the way I would. Kelly was our installer and was unbelievably hard-working very conscientious and even went the extra mile and called in a grizzly Veteran plumber when presented with a problem. We have used Atlas before and will again soon!"

– Tony M.

"Just a quick note to thank Atlas Home Improvement for the new Gutter Helmet install we received today . From the sales representative Hunter who answered all our question about the product and the company itself to the office personnel that scheduled and kept us informed about the date and times the install crew would arrive (Brook). Kevin and Rick did a great job installing and cleaning up afterwards . Thank you Rick for calling us the morning of install just to verify that indeed you would be arriving shortly . Undoubtably one of the best companies I have dealt with . Atlas made it so very easy to keep myself Safe and my home secure from gutter water damage ."

– Harold B.

"This was our second experience with Atlas. The shower in our last home was truly a primary selling feature. We returned to Atlas because of the quality of the job and the professionalism of the install. We were happy to see the same installers we had at our other house three years ago arrive here today. Chad and Bill did an excellent job. We received the same professionalism and quality we expected. They arrived with all the materials they would need, no hidden surprises, quality materials. They truly live up to everything they promise!"

– Rob R.

"Chris and Brandon did a great job on my Kitchen, I love how it looks! Chris had to come back to fix some things and he fixed all of it."

– Linda B.

"Recently, Atlas Home Improvement finished the second phase of my bathroom remodel. Matt and Chad were here every morning on time, stated in their morning phone call. They were friendly, efficient, knew their job and the job site was always in order and clean. They even went out of their way to make sure I was aware of all aspects of the job. They were GREAT!!! This is a great company!!! Very clean and considerate while putting in my new shower. Time the sales consultant was wonderful and really listened to what I want and was never pushy or tried to sell me something I didn't want. David did a wonderful job installing my shower. Great product they sell. I recommend this company highly!"

– Donna P.

"Dave put in a stair lift for me and I was very, very pleased with the whole experience. He assessed the situation with an eye on my safety and recommended changing the side of the staircase the lift was to be installed on. He did the installation quietly and quickly and without creating any mess. And he made sure I understood how the equipment worked and watched me test ride it. I could not have been more satisfied with the whole process. I would highly recommend Atlas to any senior looking to modify their home so that they can age in place."

– Dorrie R.

"We were experiencing temperature problems with our brand new walk-in tub, in that the temperature would not get very hot. After a call to Atlas we were scheduled by the office staff for an appointment within 2 days, which we very much appreciated. Dave arrived on time and immediately diagnosed the problem - and he quickly fixed it. Dave was very professional, pleasant, friendly, and knowledgeable. Our problem has now been fixed! Thank you Atlas for having such a great installation, office, and repair staff."

– Norv S.

"We had our shower completely re-done by Dave. It was a custom job that involved replacing a sub floor and some plumbing issues. They were friendly, hard workers, our shower turned out perfect! I strongly recommend Atlas Home Improvement they stand by their work!"

– Sherry G.

"Our dealings with Atlas Home Improvement have been nothing but a delight. We had booked them through Home Depot Home Services which had a salesman come out and was easy to deal with and took his time to explain all of the steps to the process. Atlas delivered the exact way they had promised we were in the loop knowing when our materials were ordered when they came in and to finally setting up the appointment. The workmanship was 5 star excellent and we could not have been happier with our new shower enclosure it really made a difference!"

– Sharron R.

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