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Ice Dams 101: What Are They And How To Prevent Them

Key Takeaways:

  1. Ice dams are ice ridges on the edge of your roof and can cause damage to your property.
  2. They are caused by uneven roof temperatures, where one area is much warmer than the other, causing snow to melt on one part of the roof while freezing on another.
  3. Ice dams can cause structural damage, water leakage, mold growth, ceiling damage, and icicles.
  4. There are various ways to prevent ice dams from forming, such as regular maintenance, ventilation, installing heating cables, and raking off the snow and ice.
  5. If you find an ice dam already formed on your roof, it is best to hire a professional roofer for its removal.

Roofing is a crucial part of your property, as it keeps you safe from the outside environment. Winters can be harsh on roofs, sometimes leading to problems that must be fixed.

If you own a flat or low-slope roof, ice dams can be an issue in winter. RKG Roofing and Construction will explore what ice dams are and why they are an issue for commercial and residential roofing in this blog post. We’ll also discuss the different ways to prevent them from improving your roof lifespan. We’ll also tell you why you should hire a roofing contractor to deal with ice dams instead of DIY.

What are Ice Dams?

Roof ice dams form when snow accumulates on the roof and melts from the heat radiating from the attic. As the melted snow runs down the roof, it refreezes at the eaves due to cold outside temperatures. This creates a barrier of ice which can cause water to pond on top of it, eventually leading to leakage into your home or business.

The weight of the accumulation of snow and ice can create considerable force against the roof, leading to leaks or even the collapse of the roof deck in extreme cases. This leakage can cause severe damage to walls, ceilings, insulation, and other interior components. Ice dams also create an ideal environment for mold growth.

How Do Ice Dams Form?

Roof ice dams form when snow on a roof melts, flows down the roof slope, and refreezes at the overhang. This can create a dam that prevents melting snow from flowing off the roof and pools against it, damaging the roof surface or even interior walls.

Ice dams are formed through a combination of three main factors; the presence of snow on the roof, below-freezing temperatures, and a warm attic space. When the attic temperature is warmer than the exterior temperature, it causes melting ice or snow to run down to the roof’s cold eave, where no heat is escaping inside the home. The water then refreezes again and builds a layer of ice. This process repeats itself over and over until an ice dam is formed.

Consequences Of Ice Dams Forming on Commercial or Residential Roofing:

1. Structural Damage

With proper maintenance, roofs can last up to 30 years, according to experienced roofing contractors.

However, they can’t withstand the weight of an ice dam. The pressure from the buildup can cause your roof to sag, creating a weak spot that can eventually lead to a collapse.

2. Water Leakage

Ice dams also trap water behind them, leading to seepage and leakage within the walls or ceiling of your home as more snow melts and pools up against the dam. It can cause severe water damage throughout your house in just a short time.

3. Mold Growth

Mold loves dark, wet environments like those created by ice dams and leaky roofs. Not only is mold unsightly, but it is a health hazard and can also damage your belongings. If you or anyone in your home has asthma, mold exposure can trigger the symptoms.

4. Ceiling Damage

Ceilings are especially vulnerable to ice dams because they’re close to the roof.

The pooled water can cause warping and staining in your ceiling, leading to costly repairs. Also, pooled water leaks can damage your ceiling fan or light fixtures.

5. Icicles and Safety Risk

Icicles also form alongside ice dams. Though they signify winter’s beauty, they can be dangerous. Although icicles are not usually sharp enough to impale you, they can cause bruising and broken bones if they fall from the roof height.

Ways to Prevent Ice Dams

So how do you prevent ice dams from forming? There are several ways to go about this:

1. Regular Maintenance

Inspect your commercial or residential roofing for any signs of wear and tear throughout the year, especially in winter when temperatures drop low enough for ice accumulation. Make sure your gutters are regularly cleared of debris so water can flow freely off the roof.

2. Ventilation

Ensure your attic is adequately ventilated with insulation and vapor barriers to keep interior temperatures warm. Warm air rising inside the home will prevent snow from melting too quickly and refreezing on the roof’s cold surface.

3. Rake off the Snow and Ice

Regularly rake off the snow and ice on your roof with a special rake to keep the accumulation at bay. Be extra cautious when using a ladder.

It’s better to call a professional roofing contractor to deal with roof maintenance than work on it yourself.

4. Install Heating Cables

Heating cables are electrical heating elements that can be installed around the perimeter of your roofing where ice dams tend to occur. This device keeps roof sections warm so ice won’t accumulate and form into large chunks or dams.

Please note: Using heating cables may use a lot of electricity. So it’s best to consult a professional roofing contractor for other prevention means before making any decisions.

Why Hire a Professional Roofer Instead of DIY?

Although you may be tempted to take out your trusty old ladder to remove ice dams from your roof, contacting a roofing contractor is the best way to remove them. Here’s why:

  • Professional roofers are experienced in safely and efficiently removing ice dams from your roofing system.
  • They have the proper equipment for removal, such as long ladders and snow shovels, instead of having to purchase your own, which can be costly.
  • They also know how to inspect for any damage caused by the ice dam that you may not have noticed or been able to detect.
  • Lastly, they understand the importance of taking precautions when working on a slippery roof surface.

Also Read: 4 Important Things To Consider Before Hiring A Roofing Contractor

Conclusion

Ice dams can be dangerous and expensive to repair if left unchecked. That’s why it is essential to take the necessary steps to prevent them from forming in the first place.

If you find an ice dam already formed on your roof, it is best to hire a professional roofer for its removal.

Professional Roofers For Commercial or Residential Roofing in Fort Worth, TX

If you need roofing services for your home or business in Fort Worth, TX, RKG Roofing and Construction is here to help. Our team of certified professionals can handle any of your roof repair needs, whether commercial or residential.

We use the highest quality materials and techniques to ensure that all our work is done correctly and safely.

Get in touch with us to get a free estimate.