Is heat tape or Roof De-Icing Cable good for the roof?

  • I am having these installed in a week or so, along with a new roof, since mine was damaged by ice dams last year. So, I'm eager to see the answers posted here. Also, I wonder (and maybe you should too) is it BAD for the roof? – Jax Sep 28 '14 at 23:35
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    The heat is probably not great for the roof, but it's certainly going to be better than ice dams. – Zach Oct 1 '14 at 15:18
  • Kind of depends on the roof material, how the cable is installed, etc... Obviously punching holes in your roof is a bad idea, as is toasting it. But ice dams are pretty bad too. – gbronner Oct 9 '14 at 1:03
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    It's not going to get hot enough to toast anything. It just has to get the water a few degrees above 0°C. – naught101 Oct 9 '14 at 23:02

Providing the constructed building was properly insulated to code and spec, adding environmental impact, nothing beats a ladder and shovel to clear snow. Cleared gutters and eavestroughing after the leaves drop every fall and if ice damming does occur, purchase de,ice pucks from a hardware and supply center. Most chains carry it. Simply toss a puck every few feet apart up onto the roof. They de ice and clear out eaves. Ice dams also are pretty good indicaters of an improperly vapor barriered or insulated roof. DO NOT RUN HEAT TAPES! Thats asking for trouble. Jon, AB, CAN

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  • For what it's worth, a thin sock or stocking filled with ice melt can be an adequate substitute for the pucks. – keshlam Oct 23 '14 at 17:55

If you're having major ice dam problems, the solution is to beef up your attic's insulation, especially at the edges. Ice dams are caused by heat rising through your attic due to insufficient insulation, where it melts the snow which re-freezes once it hits the cold gutter. If you're preparing to spend money to fix the problem, I suggest spending it on increased attic insulation, which is more likely to actually fix the problem and will also make your house more comfortable.

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Far better to both insulate & ventilate the attic better and use "Ice & Water Shield" (a thick, flexible, adhesive underlayer) rather than felt-paper for at least 8-12 feet up from the edge of the roof.

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Heat cables are better than nothing, but they are a poor "solution" at best - expensive to operate and not really solving the underlying problem.

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