Why Ice Dams Form and How to Prevent Them

snow, house, mountains, tress

Winter can be tough on your roof, especially if you aren’t prepared, and Ice dams are a common problem your house may face during the winter months.

When snow and ice on the roof’s surface melt and re-freeze at the roof’s edge, ice dams form. Ice dams are dangerous because they form at the edge and bottom of roofs, allowing water to penetrate the interior walls and ceiling and reducing the structure’s integrity.

If you live in a cold climate and have a metal roof, consider installing snow guards or a better snow retention system to prevent a roof avalanche and other ice damming damage.

What Cause Ice Dam Formation?

Ice dams are caused by irregular roof surface temperatures. The heat escaping through your attic melts the snow on your roof line. As water flows down your roof, it reaches areas with temperatures below freezing and forms icicles along the edge.

What Are Snow Guards?

Roof snow guards are snow retention devices installed on rooftops to aid in the slow and systematic fall of accumulated snow. They can be installed on standing seam metal roofs as well as metal shingle roofs.

Snow guards are also known by other names, such as snow pads, snow cleats, and snow jacks, and they come in a variety of shapes and sizes.

How Do Snow Guards Work?

During the winter or a snowstorm, your roof collects and accumulates snow, resulting in a snowpack. The snowpack accumulates over time, but as temperatures rise, it loosens, allowing gravity to pull the snow sheet down from your sloped roof.

Snow guards, on the other hand, can help to prevent the occurrence of a snow avalanche. A snow guard holds the snow on your metal roof, preventing it from falling.

Furthermore, snow guards aid in weight distribution, lowering the risk of damage to your metal roof, and they are not limited to commercial buildings.

Snow Guards on Metal Roof: Is it Necessary?

Metal roof systems, in particular, require snow guards because their smooth surface provides no traction, allowing snow and ice to slide off. Installing snow guards is therefore recommended if your home has a metal roof and you live in a snowy area.

Standard Types of Metal Roof Snow Guards

Pad Style Snow Guards

Most people refer to this snow retention system as “snow guards.” Individual units of metal or plastic guards are installed in a pattern, usually on the lower areas of a metal roof and occasionally on the roof seam.

This snow guard is applied to the roof surface by professionals using liquid adhesive or tape. They can also be mechanically attached with screws that penetrate the metal panel and grip the structure beneath the roof.

Another type of snow guard is one that clamps to the seam of a standing seam roof. Meanwhile, pad-style snow guards are available in two basic styles:

  1. Small Profile Pad Style Snow Guards 

These guards, with a pad area of less than four square inches, are an inexpensive way to keep snow blankets in place. A pattern of these small profile snow guards is installed on the metal roof, beginning near the eave and continuing to or near the peak.

Small-profile snow guards are less visible than large-profile guards, more units are required to achieve the same result. These guards, however, are less effective on steeper pitches.

  1. Large Profile Pad Style Snow Guards

As some large profile guards have pad surfaces as wide as 15 square inches, the pad surface on these guards measures more than 4 square inches and functions more effectively as a barrier to snow movement.

This type of snow guard is frequently installed in a row. Although large-profile snow guards are less common than small-profile snow guards, they are much more noticeable.

Bar-Style Snow Guards

This type of snow guard is made up of a continuous length of rectangular bars that are installed horizontally across the metal roof to keep snow and ice at bay. Depending on the pitch of the roof and the distance between the eave and the peak, more rows may be required.

The horizontal bars are attached to a metal bracket in the bar-style snow guard system. The bracket is screwed to the roof’s substructure or clamped to seams for a standing seam roof structure.

The bar-style snow guard has a unique feature that allows you to attach a piece of your metal roof to the horizontal bar so that the color of the roof hides the color of the aluminum.

Fence Style Snow Guards

This snow guard system is similar to bar-style snow guards, but instead of a single bar, it has two or more vertically oriented tubes. This snow retention system, which resembles a snow fence, is common in custom homes.

How Do Ice Dams Cause Damage to Structures?

  • Ice dams can lift roof shingles as they form, making it difficult for the shingles to reseal. This damage has an impact on your home’s ability to withstand
  • The weight of the ice dam can put a strain on your roof, damaging the gutter and causing the roof to cave in.
  • Melted ice can seep through damaged shingles and cause significant moisture and water damage in your home.

Short-Term Solutions for Ice Dam

  • Clean your gutters.
  • Keep your roof valley clear of debris throughout the year.
  • Keep your attic cold in the winter.
  • Use rock salt, salt brick, or calcium chloride brick to prevent ice formation.

Although these short-term solutions are effective, they necessitate the use of human labor. Consider having a vacation home in a snowy region without a snow retention system. Ice dams have the potential to cause significant damage to your property.

Call HotEdge for Professional Ice Melt and Ice Dam Prevention Services

Snow and ice can cause significant damage to a property if not addressed properly, and installing snow guards or implementing any ice melting system does not guarantee satisfaction; having a professional handle it, such as HotEdge Roof Ice Melt, does.

We offer flawless solutions to prevent the formation of ice dams and icicles. We provide cost-effective solutions that prevent ice dam formation by combining different products, saving you money on damage repairs.

HotEdge is a leader in the production of accredited and effective roof ice melt systems. Our expert technicians install the best snow guards and ice melt systems, providing our customers with excellent and satisfying service. Call us today at 303-578-4992 if you need a snow retention system.



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