What is Ice Damming?

Here in Littleton, Colorado, we experience harsh winters with frequent snowstorms. But, as is typical in Colorado, snowstorms are often immediately followed by periods of bright sunshine. These shifting conditions present the optimal circumstances for ice dams to form on your roof. 

Ice dams are more than just an inconvenience; they may cause lasting damage to your roofing system. So, it’s important to understand ice damming and how to deal with it for the maintenance of your roof. Remember, when it doubt, always turn to your Littleton roofing experts for help with your roofing system. 

Defining Ice Damming

When snow melts on your roof, it will flow towards the edges. However, if the edges of your roof are colder than the center, that melted snow can freeze instead of moving into the drainage system. This re-frozen snow forms a ridge of ice that prevents the remaining snow on your roof from draining. 

Damage Due to Ice Damming

Ice dams trap water on your roof, opening up the possibility of several types of damage. Below, you’ll find the main types of roof damage that may be caused by ice damming:

  • Loosen or damage shingles and other roofing materials
  • Rip gutters off of your home
  • Water leakage into your home
  • Mold and mildew development in your home 

How Do Ice Dams Form?

When the surface temperature of your roof is inconsistent across different areas, ice dams can form. Inconsistent surface temperatures may stem from accumulated snow, a loss of heat in your home, and external temperatures.

Specifically, when the surface near the center of your roof is over 32℉ and the surface near the edges of your roof is under 32℉, ice dams can form after a snowstorm. But, those temperatures need to be maintained over a somewhat prolonged period. The snow must have time to melt, seep towards the edges of your roof, and re-freeze to form a ridge. 

Ice Dams Lead To Standing Water. 

Once an ice dam has formed, it will continue to grow in size. As more snow melts in the center of your roof, it will flow to the ice dam and freeze, adding to its size. But, once it reaches a certain size, water from melted snow will no longer reach the part of your roof that’s below 32℉. So, instead of freezing, it will stay as a liquid. This results in standing water on your roof. This water may seep into your attic, eventually reaching your exterior walls or ceiling insulation. Your ceiling finish may develop water stains as a visible sign of the water damage in your home. 

Preventing Ice Damming

By looking at the cause of ice dam formation, it’s possible to pinpoint issues and implement solutions for your Littleton home. 

Heat Loss

Heat loss from your home is likely the main contributor to nonuniform temperatures on the surface of your roof. So, in preventing heat loss, you can likely keep ice damming at bay. Additionally, by reducing heat loss, you’ll improve the overall energy-efficiency of your home. 

You can prevent heat loss from your home in more ways than one. Effective strategies for this include:

  • Adding insulation to the attic

For heat loss caused by conduction, adding attic insulation can be an effective method for preventing ice dams. Conduction is simply defined as the process of heat moving through a solid. Heat may move through the ceiling of your home, eventually reaching your roof and unevenly heating its surface. You can have insulation added to the floor of your attic to prevent this type of heat loss.

  • Adding insulation to duct work

Heat can also be lost due to air leakage. With leaky duct work, heat will transfer into your attic and up to your roof. Ducts must be sealed and insulated to prevent this form of heat loss. 

  • Add flashing around your chimneys

Heat loss through your chimneys may unevenly heat the surface of your roof. Flashing can help prevent this issue. If your roof already has flashing installed, make sure that it’s in good condition.  

If you’re still struggling to stop ice dams from forming on your roof, contact our Littleton roofers today. We’ll find the right solution to protect your roofing system.