What Is an Ice Dam on Your Roof?

What Is an Ice Dam on Your Roof?

Although Texas winters don’t typically include tons of snow, it’s still possible for ice dams to develop on your roof when the odd snowstorm rolls across our great state. Unfortunately, ice dams can do quite a bit of damage to homes and commercial buildings when they’re allowed to sit on a roof unchecked. That’s why prompt ice dam removal and prevention are so important.

But what exactly is an ice dam? And how can it harm your home or business? Read on to learn everything you need to know about how ice dams develop, what they can do to your roof, how to get rid of them, and what you can do to prevent them from occurring.

What Is an Ice Dam?

An ice dam is a thick mass of ice that sits along the edge of a sloped roof. An ice dam can also develop around protrusions in a roof, as well as in roof valleys, which are the areas where two sloped sides of a roof meet. As its name suggests, this hefty ridge of ice functions quite like a dam you’d see in a river — it prevents water from flowing off a roof efficiently.

Much like a dam in a river, an ice dam causes water to pool behind it, and it’s that pooling that can cause considerable damage to the affected roof. If the dam is allowed to sit long enough, pooling water can even damage the inside of the building.

How Do Ice Dams Form?

An ice dam forms when a roof accumulates snow and the exterior temperature of the roof is not constant across its entire surface. When the upper portion of the roof is warmer than the edges of the roof — this fairly common — snow that accumulates toward the roof’s peak ends up melting faster than the snow along the edge.

As the melting snow turns to water, that water trickles down the slope of the roof until it reaches the edges. But because the edges of the roof are several degrees colder than the upper portion of the roof, that water refreezes, creating ice.

As the snow on the upper portion of the roof continues to melt due to the warmer temperature, water continues flowing down the roof. Once it reaches the edge, it joins up with the existing ice there and refreezes. This process continues until a ridge of ice forms along the edge of the roof, which forces water to pool on the roof behind it.

How Can an Ice Dam Damage Your Home or Building?

Your roof is sloped to allow water and outdoor debris to slide off of it as efficiently as possible because standing water can easily damage the surface of a roof. When there’s an ice dam on your home or building, and you don’t remove it or hire a professional to do the job, serious issues can result.

If the pooling water behind the dam seeps beneath the surface of your roof, you may end up dealing with:

  • Damaged shingles
  • Water damage to the decking of your roof
  • Mold and mildew growth in your attic
  • Water damage to the structural components of your attic
  • Water damage to the ceilings inside your home or building
  • Water damage to interior walls
  • Roof rot or partial roof collapse

Of course, the severity of the damage will depend on the age and condition of your roof, as well as the amount of time you allow the ice dam to sit. The faster you remove that ridge of ice and the rest of the snow on your roof, the lower your risk of dealing with serious damage.

How to Prevent Ice Dams on Your Roof

Whether you’ve had ice dams in the past or simply want to be as proactive as possible about protecting your roof, there are several ways you can reduce your risk of ice damming.

Because ice dams develop stem from nonuniform roof temperature, ensuring your attic has adequate insulation is one of the most effective things you can do to prevent uneven snowmelt. Aside from updating your attic insulation, you can also:

  • Locate and seal any air leaks inside your home or building that may be allowing an excessive amount of warm air to rise into the attic.
  • Have a roofing contractor add vents in your soffit and roof, which will help flush out warm attic air that encourages uneven snowmelt.
  • If you have a central HVAC system, make sure your ducting is sealed and well insulated, which helps prevent warm air from traveling into your attic.

If you’re close to needing a roof replacement, opting for a metal roof in lieu of the roofing you currently have can also help prevent ice dam formation. Metal roofing is significantly more slippery than other roofing materials, which allows it to shed snow before it can cause an ice problem on your roof.

Need Roof Repairs Near Dallas?

If you believe your roof may have suffered ice dam damage over the winter, get in touch with our team at Paradigm Roofing to schedule an inspection and repairs. For more than 30 years, we’ve provided comprehensive roofing services to residential and commercial clients throughout the Dallas–Fort Worth metro area, and your total satisfaction is our number one priority.

To learn more or schedule an appointment, give us a call today at 972-542-7774 or contact us online, and we’ll get in touch promptly.