I was looking recently at my website statistics and one thing popped up clearly – folks are really searching for information on roof ice dams and also metal roofing as a possible solution to ice damming. This has been a tough winter with snow and ice in areas of the country that do not normally get snow and ice. This poses a unique problem because, while there are ways to help make a home be resistant to ice damming, if you do not normally get much ice and snow, you don’t build your home to handle it well. Of course, oftentimes weather patterns repeat themselves for a few years so the folks getting ice and snow this year can quite possibly expect it in future years as well.
So, let’s take a look at ice damming on roofs …
There are two primary reasons why ice damming occurs on roofs. They are as follows:
When analyzing a problem, I always like to first look at what can be done to permanently fix the situation rather than just try to relieve the symptoms. So, in the two above scenarios, what is a permanent fix? Read on!
The next question then becomes, what if these permanent fixes cannot be made or, in the case of roof shape, do not have adequate effect? In that case, there are systems which can be added to your roof that will help in melting unavoidable ice dams. Some of these systems lay on top of the roof, such as “heat tape” and are easily added to any existing roof. Other systems become more permanent and integral to the structure and actually are placed under the roof system or under the roof deck in the areas where ice dams occur, heating the roof surface and preventing the ice creation and accumulation.
The next question that folks ask a lot of times is whether metal roofing avoids ice dams. Companies like Classic Metal Roofing Systems and Kassel & Irons produce attractive residential metal roofing systems and sometimes make the claim that their systems can help minimize ice dams. The fact is, metal roofing can help but it is by no means a cure-all for ice dams.
Metal roofs tend to shed snow more quickly than most other roofing materials. This is because they have a fairly smooth top surface and also because, when the sun does appear on winter days, heat from the sun passes through the snowload, hits the metal, and is reflected back outside. It then starts to melt the bottom of the snow on the roof over the entire roof not just over the heated areas. Once that snow melts a bit, it gets slippery and tends to slide off the roof, much like snow off of the hood of your car once the engine warms up.
However, metal roofing does not necessarily help prevent ice dams from converging snow and, if the sun doesn’t come out, snow can hang around on metal roofing for a long time just as it does on other roofing materials. So, that brings us back to not wanting to ignore the possibility of permanent solutions to ice damming even on homes where metal roofing is being installed. One benefit of metal roofing, if ice dams do occur, is that typically due to the interlocking nature of the panels, the strength of the metal, and the underlayments used beneath the metal panels, there is less chance of the melted snow and ice working their way into the homes, its walls, or its overhangs, than there can be with other roofing materials. So, even though ice dams may occur, they will be less damaging.
If you have a particularly stubborn ice dam situation, feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Send me pictures or roof diagrams if you can including details on your home’s construction and ventilation, and I will do my best to offer solid solutions.
Todd's expertise comes from his years of experience in metal roofing manufacturing. As president of Isaiah Industries, based in Piqua Ohio, Todd runs a several of the world’s leading manufacturers of residential metal roofing; Classic Metal Roofing Systems, Kassel & Irons, and Green American Home. His personal goal is to educate homeowners of the long-life benefits of metal roofing.
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