March 1, 2021 Hailey Day

Ice Dams: A Preventable Roofing Problem

During the winter months, especially here in beautiful Colorado, it is always a good practice to do routine visual inspections of the roof of your multi-family, commercial, or residential property to look for signs of ice dams. These signs include icicle sets, ice buildup, and snow piles near the roof eaves. If left unchecked, ice dams can cause serious damage to your roof, gutters, and facia, and in the worse cases, cause interior water damage.

How Ice Dams Develop and Their Primary Source

When too much heat collects under a sloped roof during the winter months, it warms most of the roof, except for the eaves. Eventually, this heat melts snow that has accumulated on the roof which then flows downhill to the colder eaves and refreezes. Over time, this freeze-thaw cycle builds enough ice along the roof eaves to form an ice dam which prevents future snowmelt from running off the roof. With nowhere to go, snowmelt is pushed back under the roof tiles and the damage begins.

The primary driver of ice dam development is a temperature imbalance between the main roof and the roof eaves. This temperature imbalance is typically caused by a combination of factors, including unbalanced roof ventilation and improperly installed insulation.

Best Practices for Ice Dam Prevention

    • Balance Your Roof Ventilation
      To ensure equal temperature between to your roof and the roof eaves, it is important that your ventilation components (soffit vents and roof vents) are properly configured to industry standards and in good working order. One blocked or improperly installed vent is all it takes to create an airflow imbalance.
    • Use Ridge Vents vs. Turtle Vents
      With their extra airflow capacity (double what standard turtle vents provide), internal baffling that keeps out precipitation, and their lower visibility profile, ridge vents are definitely the way to go to keep your roof ventilation system working properly and looking good.
    • Install Adequate Insulation the Right Way
      Roof insulation is critical to preventing ice dams. Insulation that is installed too close to the roof substrate prevents air flow and contributes to temperature imbalances that contribute to ice dams. Insulation also plays important role in keeping warm air from the livable areas of your building from getting into the attic in the first place. Keep a close eye on recessed lighting, interior vents, and other common places where heat can escape into the roof attic.
    • Utilize Heat Tape in Problem Areas
      Despite your best effort to control temperature imbalances, some areas of your roof may be more prone to ice dam formation. In these cases, heat tape or another heating source can be installed to warm sections of your roof eaves.

Rest assured, the Western Skies Exteriors team has lots of experinece working with property owners to prevent ice dam buildup. Just give us a call at (720) 542-9991 or contact us using our call back request form and we’ll setup a time to come inspect your roof.

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