Ice Dams

In nature, an ice dam is a phenomenon where a glacier or other chunk of ice blocks off a river or bay. This causes water to back up behind it often creating whole new bodies of water. Unfortunately, ice dams can also form on your roof, and they do so without the obvious signs like new national parks or increased harbor seal populations. Here’s how it happens:


When snow or ice builds up on your roof, it eventually starts melting. In periods of prolonged cold, however, the first thing to start melting it is not the sun, but heat escaping from your building. Uneven heating on a surface will then create uneven melting; escaping heat won’t touch the eaves or the edge of your roof, so this is where a ridge of ice will form after melting and refreezing. You now have an ice dam on your roof, and it will likely cause severe damage to your home or business.

Visible effects of an ice dam
Visible effects of an ice dam

Water always needs a place to go. In the case of an ice dam, the water will work its way into your building and wreak havoc. Some effects are:

  • Wet, ineffective insulation
  • Loss of interior heat
  • Paint deterioration
  • Stained ceiling and walls
  • Mold and mildew growth

The harsh reality is that ice damming is the leading cause of roof damage. But how can you tell if this is happening? If you have unevenly melting snow or icicles big enough to challenge your neighbor to a sword fight, you likely have an ice dam on your roof. This is typically a result of structural problems or bad design, but we have some fixes.

By using darker roofing materials you can absorb daytime heat that will melt the ice more evenly. Well-placed drains where water tends to accumulate will then insure that the melt-off stays outside. Since weather and gathering water are inevitable, your best bet is to simply get quality roofing materials and quality roofers. For residential roofs, the best option is the ice and water shield, which protects the structural integrity of your home by adding an extended protective layer beneath the shingles, and which is required by building codes in most Denver areas. We can also install heat tape (also called a deicing cable) along the problem eaves that will melt accumulating ice and keep damns from forming 

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