Ice Dams—What They Are and Why You Should Worry

Considering that summer weather lasts roughly half of the year, North Texas business owners easily forget the possibility of cold weather damage to their commercial roofs. 

We worry far less about brutal cold, heavy snow, freezing rain, or ice dams than about storm damage caused by hail, torrential rains, or high winds. 

When we think about insulation and heat transfer, we usually trying to mitigate increased utility costs caused by extreme heat and intense direct sunlight, not about trying to prevent a melt-and-refreeze roofing calamity.

Although prioritizing protection against severe warm-weather storms and heat is entirely reasonable, too many business owners are caught unaware when sudden severe winter weather strikes. 

Ice Dams—What They Are and Why You Should Worry

One of the most common causes of winter roof damage is a frozen blockage called ice dams. They often form after heavy snowfall and several days of extreme cold.

Warming the interior of the building causes slightly higher temperatures on the surface of the roof, even though outside air temperatures are below freezing. The bottom layer of snow and ice will begin to melt, and the runoff will trickle down onto the colder eaves (which have no underlying heat source) and into the cold gutterways where it re-freezes.

The ice builds there, which creates the blockage. Water and will pool, backing up into the seams between panels and sheets of material, or around fastenings and fixtures. When the roof’s surface temperature drops below freezing, usually at night, the water re-freezes and expands, creating splits, cracks, and faults in conventional roofs. 

When the temperature rises again, the trapped water and ice then seeps through the fault in the roof into your insulation, into the ceiling, then into your workspace.

At that point, your roof has failed, and it will either have to be repaired or replaced.

Unprepared business owners and building managers will have to pay the price, either out of pocket or though troublesome insurance settlements.

Ice Dams—Causes and Solutions

The best solution is prevention, which means addressing the root causes, usually poor insulation between the ceiling and roof. 

Poor insulation will allow heat to escape from the interior, which raises the temperature of your commercial roof’s surface and contributes to the melting/refreezing cycle that leads to the formation of ice dams.

The key is to make sure your roof stays below 30°F during freezing weather, which keeps snow and ice frozen until warmer temperatures arrive and all the ice melts and runs off  the roof, breaking the damaging refreeze cycle. 

Ice Dam Solution 1—SPF Insulation 

The best way to maintain the lower temperature is to improve your building’s ability to keep the interior warmth from permeating the roof’s surface—installing a closed-cell, high-R value insulation between the ceiling and roof.

Insulation works by trapping air in the many tiny pockets or bubbles of the insulation material, and closed cell Spray Polyurethane Foam (SPF) is densely packed with smaller bubbles that form an efficient barrier that resists air flow and heat conduction (leading to  its high R-value).

By preventing both air flow and heat conduction, the surface temperature shouldn’t rise above freezing.

Read more about closed cell spray foam here.

Ice Dam Solution 2—SPF Roofing 

Installing an SPF commercial roof also helps prevent heat transfer, the roofing material itself essentially forming an additional layer of insulation above the roof deck and helping to keep surface temperatures below freezing.

Although heavy snow and ice are infrequent in this part of the country, you also want to make sure that your commercial roof is structurally sound enough to handle the added weight of snow and ice should a severe winter storm strike, and SPF roofing greatly increases the structural integrity of your building’s roof.

SPF is also the best material on the market for preventing moisture seepage and leaks through the roof, walls, and ceiling. This is a true advantage when dealing with large amounts of melted ice and snow runoff.

When you put all of the benefits together, SPF provides the best protection available against ice dams that can ruin your commercial roof and lead to water damage to the property stored within your workspace. 

Get an Estimate on a Closed Cell Spray Foam Solution

Winter is upon us again in North Texas, and there is no way to know what weather conditions will be thrown at us.  

To be sure your business is protected against ice dams and other cold weather damage, consider the SPF advantages. Get a free estimate on cell spray foam roofing and insulation solutions by clicking the link.

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