Heat cables installed along the edge of a roof as a means of ice dam prevention.

Ice dams are a common problem for climates that regularly reach freezing temperatures. Ice dams form along the edges of your roof after heavy snowfall. After the snow melts, the  meltwater gathers along the edge of the roof and refreezes when temperatures cool. You may think you can just wait for when the ice melts again – but this can be a huge mistake. Ice dam formation can wreck the health of your commercial roof if left alone.

Ice dam prevention and removal are essential to keep your business safe and functional during the colder months. If you have an ice dam problem, you have to move fast or you risk major damage to your commercial building.

What Happens When You Don’t Prevent Ice Dams?

Letting ice dams accumulate on your roof can damage your commercial property in several ways. If you aren’t proactive against ice buildup on your roof surface, it could cost you major repairs later on. There are many different types of ice dam damage.

Gutter and Drainage System Damage

Ice dams can cause significant damage to your drainage systems. The ice can trap debris and other materials in your downspouts and gutters, which can cause them to clog. Additionally, the added weight and stress of the ice dam and the icicles it causes can overload your drainage system and cause it to sag or detach from the roof.

Water Damage

When ice and snow melt, the meltwater gets trapped beneath the ice dam. The trapped water begins to seep into your roofing materials. Long term, this can cause leaks and water stains on your ceiling. The thaw and refreeze cycle may also cause your roofing material to expand and contract which can cause it to degrade.

Mold and Mildew

The trapped meltwater creates the perfect conditions for mold and mildew to grow on interior and exterior walls. If the water has seeped into your insulation you could end up with a serious mold issue.

Structural Damage

If the weight of the ice dams adds too much stress to the roof, it can cause bowing and sagging, or even roof collapse in extreme cases. The weight may cause the structural components of your roof to weaken. If water has penetrated your roof it may also cause structural components made of wood to rot.

How to Prevent Ice Dams

When it comes to ice dams, the best thing to do is to prevent them from forming in the first place. There are a few ways you can lower the risk of ice dams forming on your roof.

Get Proper Insulation

Minimizing heat loss is important in preventing the formation of ice dams. Good insulation maintains a consistent temperature across the roof which reduces the likelihood of snow melting in a way that forms ice dams.

When you’re shopping for insulation, you want to look for products that have a high R-value. R-value measures thermal resistance. The higher the R-value, the better the temperature control. Spray foam insulation and Polyiso insulation have extremely high R-values, which reduces your chances of developing ice dams.

Check if you have air leaks due to gaps around any installed lighting fixtures, HVAC machines, or other penetrations. If you’re losing warm air due to insulation gaps, addressing these issues can help minimize your chances of developing ice dams.

Improve Your Ventilation Systems

Continuous airflow is important to minimize the risk of ice dams. Assess your roof vents, soffit vents, and HVAC machines — and make improvements when necessary. This helps maintain consistent temperatures across your commercial roofing system and fight ice buildup. If your commercial building has an attic space, proper attic ventilation is important to keep temperatures even as well.

Snow Removal

Removing snow is a quick way to stop ice dams from happening. Snow can be removed using a snow rake. Or, you can contact professional roofing contractors to get the job done for you. If you opt for DIY snow removal, make sure you have the appropriate roof rake and other safety equipment to get the job done without putting you or your roof in danger.

Heat Cable Installation

You can install heated cables along the underside of the roof’s edge, the gutters, and downspouts. These cables keep ice dams from forming by generating a constant low level of heat, creating a clear path for meltwater to safely drain off your roof. Make sure that you have them installed by a professional contractor, as improper installation can create an electricity hazard.

Upgrade to a Metal Roof

A metal roof is resistant to snow accumulation, and the material is great at responding quickly to temperature changes. Metal roofs are also resistant to water absorption. Installing a metal roof on your commercial building can help reduce your risk of ice dams.

Ice Dam Removal Tips

Removing ice dams can be a little complicated if you aren’t a trained professional. Certain de-icing products and tools could damage your roof. It’s best to contact a professional roofing contractor to get the job done, especially since your commercial roof will likely be slippery and more dangerous.

Make sure during ice dam removal that you don’t use rock salt. Rock salt is corrosive and can damage your roofing materials. Calcium chloride is a safer alternative for removing ice and snow from your roof.

You also want to avoid using sharp tools that might puncture your roofing material. A roof rake is appropriately designed to remove the snow and ice without damaging the roofing system.

Protect Your Roof With the Best

If you’re in a never-ending battle against ice dams and other threats to your commercial roof, we can give you the help you need to win the fight once and for all. With over 50 years of experience, we here at TEMA are prepared to defend your roof no matter what season it is. We provide high-quality ice dam prevention and 24-hour emergency repairs so you can rest easy — no matter what the weather forecast is. Interested in putting TEMA on your team? Contact us today!