Ice dams are a build-up of ice that can form along the edges of your roof, within your eavestrough, as well as around the drains, due to melted snow. These ice dams are known to prevent water caused by snow melts from properly draining, which can lead to leaks and other damage to occur within the building. If the snow, water and ice is not able to drain properly it will add additional weight to your roofing system, and can cause a collapse. Ice dams are usually a result of a lack of sufficient attic insulation, and ventilation. Ice dams can cause dangerous structural damage, and due to persistent leaks can lead to unhealthy mold growth within your attic space.
The best way to ensure that your flat or low slope roofing system develops minimal ice dams, is to provide your roof with proper maintenance. While ice dams can cause significant damage on sloped roofs as well, low sloped roofing systems seem to be more susceptible to costly damage and leaks. If a leak does occur, it may cause significant and costly damage to your walls, ceilings, building contents, and can severely reduce the integrity of your roofing system.
Taking time to clear the snow accumulation from your roof will help to prevent these ice dams from developing at all, by removing the cause. You must also ensure that any accumulated debris from trees and the like, is cleared from the roof, and from around the drains. Having your drains, eavestroughs, and downspouts cleaned regularly will also help to prevent any blockages that may leave this water unable to drain. In many cases however there will be no clog in the drain itself, instead the ice dams will form around it, interrupting the proper flow. Low slope roofing systems also allow for ice development to move farther up the roof than on those with steeper slopes.
In the case of low slope roofs, ventilation is a key. Though adding sufficient ventilation to your roofing system can lead to the development of leaks within your attic space, as wind, snow and rain can make their way inside of those vents. Some contractors will not add any additional roof ventilation to low sloped roofing systems, in an attempt to prevent these issues. Ice dams are more likely to occur on roofing systems with low slopes, as ventilation is often a issue. While there may be a small risk, proper ventilation is vital in the prevention of ice dams, and the protection of your roofing system. These ice dams are able to cause extensive damage to both the roof as well as within the house or building, as it is much simpler for this water to travel “upward” on a roof with a low slope.
The majority of roofing systems that are flat, or have a low slope are put together using different types of adhesive materials. These adhesives are known to break down due to both weather and time. As such, leak development is often an issue along these seams. The development of ice dams may just make the issue develop more rapidly, as the expansion and contraction caused by the snows melting and re-freezing, causes the area between the seams to widen faster.
Attic insulation should be your first step in the prevention of ice dams. Additional insulation can help to prevent ice dams from developing, as it will help to regulate the temperature of your attic space. Regular maintenance will not only help to prevent the development of ice dams, it will also ensure that any damage cause by previous ice dams will be repaired quickly and efficiently. Adding sufficient amounts of attic insulation will also help to reduce your household energy costs.
If the ice dam issue is a persistent one, it may be wise to consult a roofing contractor. The cost to prevent this type of roof, and household damage pales in comparison to the costs incurred when trying to repair it. Speak to the experts, and be sure to have your low slope roofing system installed by a reputable and established company. Your home, family and wallet will thank you for it.