Ice dam on a commercial roof.

Flat roofs are common for many commercial business locations, and like pitched single roofs, they come with their own set of considerations. Spring and summer bring rain, storms, and high winds, while winter brings freezing temperatures, ice, and snow.

Ice dams are just one of the many challenges that come with owning a flat roof in the wintertime. However, there are ways to prevent ice dams from forming and causing damage to your property.

What is an Ice Dam?

An ice dam is a buildup of ice on the edge of the roof. Ice dams form when snow melts on the roof due to uneven temperatures on the roof. (Warm air rises, melts snow on the roof, and the water runs down the roof edge.) Melting water then re-freezes at the eaves of the flat roof, causing a blockage that prevents water from draining off the roof properly.

Why Do I Need to Prevent Ice Dams?

Ice dams can turn into a costly problem for commercial building owners with low slope roofs. When ice dams form, they block melting snow from draining to gutters, downspouts or scuppers. This can lead to several problems:

    • Water Penetrations

When a flat roof doesn’t drain properly, you get standing water. In the winter, standing water can refreeze, and that ice can affect the structural integrity of the roofing material, leading to roof leaks. Water leaks can cause mold growth and water damage inside your building.

    • Falling Ice

Ice dams can accumulate to the point where they form huge icicles or enormous chunks of ice. When icicles become heavy enough, they can detach and become a hazard to individuals or vehicles. Ice dams also have the potential to pull down gutters or eaves – or damage soffit.

Measures For Ice Dam Prevention

Most commercial roofing systems are designed to last for decades as long as they receive regular maintenance. Good ice dam prevention starts long before winter, with regular roof inspections and roof maintenance, when necessary. While some business owners choose to make that a DIY job, most opt for the expertise of a professional roofing contractor.

A roof inspection includes an assessment of your roof covering and insulation. If the insulation is inadequate or degraded, it can accelerate the freeze/thaw cycle due to hot spots on the roof. Replacing insulation will also help prevent heat loss inside your building, reducing stress on your HVAC system.

A roof inspection also assesses roof ventilation. Warm air naturally accumulates at a building’s ceiling no matter how effective the insulation. However, good ventilation will keep air moving through the building properly and maintain equal temperatures.

Remember: Regular Snow Removal is Key

When snow falls, it can accumulate on roofs at a much faster rate than you might think. If not removed regularly, the snow can build up and block drainage paths, as well as put excessive stress on your roof. A good general rule of thumb is to have snow removed from your roof after every three to six inches of snowfall.

Keep Your Gutters, Downspouts, and Scuppers Clean and Clear

Make sure that your gutters and scuppers are clean and clear of debris. (This is essential for year-round roof drainage, especially if you live in an area that sees heavy rain in the spring or summer.) Wind can blow leaves or other debris into gutters or roof drains and render them ineffective. Make sure that downspouts are directed away from the building, and that no trees or other objects block them.

Remember that even though ice dam prevention starts with maintenance of your commercial roof, it’s important to remain vigilant during times of heavy snowfall or temperature swings.

Consider a Roof Asset Management Program

A Roof Asset Management Program like the one offered at TEMA Roofing Services helps business owners and property managers keep an eye on the condition of their commercial roof(s). Whether you have one roof in your portfolio or several dozen, our Roof Asset Management Program keeps decision makers up-to-date and thoroughly informed about their roof’s condition all year round.

Keep in mind that different roofs have different needs for maintenance. But, regardless of whether your building has a metal roof, built-up roofing system, or a single ply membrane (such as TPO or EPDM), a roof management program can house all of your essential roofing information in the same place.

TEMA Roofing is Your Year-Round Roofing Partner

Ice dam problems on a flat roof can be dangerous and costly, so be sure to actively take steps to protect your business. Making sure your roof is properly insulated and ventilated is a great first step in reducing the chance of ice dams forming on your commercial property.

But, the best way to prevent ice dams is to partner with a roofing company you trust. TEMA Roofing Services has decades of roofing expertise with every type of commercial roofing system. Whether you need a simple roof repair or are dealing with issues like ice dam removal, TEMA is here for you. Contact us today!