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With spring approaching, many of us who live in colder climates are excited about warmer weather and getting started on our home improvement projects. One that should not be overlooked is ice dam prevention. This past New England winter was especially harsh, and ice dams caused a great deal of damage to many homes and businesses. What is an ice dam? How does it form? What kind of damage can they cause my home? And most importantly, how can we prevent them from causing us significant damage and costly repairs? 






















Ice dams form when melted snow refreezes at the roof edge. Water from melting snow runs down the roof slope, under the blanket of snow and refreezes into a “band? of ice at the roofs edge creating a dam. When more snow melts, it pools against the dam and eventually will leak into your home or building through the roof or roof trim. 

 Snow accumulation, escaping heat from your roof, and freezing weather outside to refreeze the melted snow into solid ice are the three factors that cause ice dams. There doesn’t have to be much snow for this to happen, an inch or two can create an ice dam, but the more snow there is, the bigger the risks. The reason ice-dams form along the roof’s lower edge is pretty straight forward. The upper part of the roof’s surface, towards the ridgeline, is warmed by escaping heat from your home. The lower part of the roof, towards the eaves, is below freezing. Roof overhangs are not warmed by escaping heat from the interior. 

The damage caused by ice dams can be significant. Gutters will not cause an ice-dam, however, they can create problems. Ice filled gutters can rip away from the house bringing fascia, downspouts and fasteners in tow. Water leaking into your home can cause a range of damage to the interior and your stored belongings. Water stained ceilings and peeling paint are visible signs of damage from inside the house. 
So what can you do? If you look at an abandoned home, shed or unheated garage, you will not see ice dams on any of these structures. The reason being, there is not heat escaping from the interior, melting the snow and creating the flow of water in sub freezing temperatures. So what are some solutions? Many roofers swear by ice and water barrier. This is a self adhering, elastomeric barrier, and though it is not a guaranteed solution, it can be helpful. Ice barrier should also be used along all walls and any protrusions, such as vent pipes, skylights and chimneys. 




















Proper Insulation
You must stop the heat from escaping your roof by insuring your insulation is up to par. Here in Connecticut, the standard for insulation levels is R-49 (or about 18 inches of fiberglass or cellulose). Roof leaks wet attic insulation, and wet insulation does not work well. Over time, the water-soaked insulation is compressed and dries out thinner than it is suppose to be. Thinner insulation also does not work well, and your heating/cooling costs can skyrocket. Not only are there the utility costs, but the thinner insulation allows more heat to escape through your roof, thus causing more ice dams!! Water leaking into the frame of your home where it wets the wall insulation, making it sag and leaves uninsulated voids at the top of the wall. More energy is wasted, but more importantly, moisture gets trapped within the wall cavity resulting in rotting, smelly wall cavities that can, and most likely will have mold and mildew growth. Structural framing can decay. It can really become a nightmare for any homeowner!

Ventilation
Proper ventilation is also extremely important. The “convection? effect is a major cause of ice-dams. We recommend you install a ridge vent so that air can escape through the ridge of the roof. To encourage the flow of air, you should also have a soffit vent installed if you do not already have one. As the warm air exits from the peak of the roof, it will be replaced by new, fresh, cool air entering from the soffit vents.
To also encourage the flow of air through your attic a roof fan can be a great ventilation asset. These can easily be installed by a professional roofer and a licensed electrician. Solar powered roof fans are also available. 
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Heat Tape
This is a zig-zag arrangement of electrically heated cable. They need to be installed by both a licensed electrician and roofer. The initial investment for heat tape can be a few hundred dollars. However, the installation of the heat tape can run in the thousands when you factor in an electrician. For heat tape to be effective, it needs to be turned on and running from the time the first snow flake falls ,until the snow is gone. The additional utility costs can be in the hundreds at the end of the winter. You also run the risk of damaging your shingles as heat tape can dry them out and make them brittle. My advice is, don’t waste your money here. 

These are suggestions for people not looking to install an entirely new roof, but are trying to reduce or eliminate ice-dams. Remember to focus on the cause, heat loss from your home. Ventilation, insulation and blocking as many air leaks as practical are the cut and dry solutions. 
There are a few great options available for people who are preparing to get a new roof installed on their home or business that will completely prevent ice dams from ever forming. 













Metal Roofing
The cost of a new asphalt shingle roof varies. Here in CT, the labor and materials price per square can be anywhere from $350 to $1,000 per square, depending on the number of layers and the difficulty and height of the roof. Metal roofing can be between 30%-200% more than asphalt shingles. The benefits of metal roofing outweigh the extra costs. Removing the existing roof is often not necessary, thus reducing labor and debris removal costs. This also keeps asphalt out of land fills, a plus for the green conscious consumer. Metal last much longer and manufacturers warranty their products for 50 years or as long as you own your home!! Ice-dams cannot form on metal roofs, the snow slides right off , and in the event that it does not, the water can still escape, as the snow and ice do not freeze to the roof like it does on textured, grainy shingles. 

















Single-ply Membrane
Roofs with a pitch that is 4/12 or less are much more susceptible to leaks and formation of ice dams than steeper pitch roofs. Many roofers suggest using all ice and water barrier while installing asphalt shingles on these low pitched roofs. This is definitely not a guaranteed solution however. The most effective roofing material on a low pitched roof is single ply membrane. 
There are a few options for single-ply roofing. 
EPDM, or black rubber roofs, are common for industrial roofs because of the price though we do not recommend it. There are many instances where we encounter seam failure, leaks and improper installation. The dark color make for sever spikes in cooling costs as EPDM rubber can heat up to 170 degrees on a 90 degree summer day!
TPO is another single-ply option. This is a rather new product, only being around for about 20 years and has seen its share of flaws. From deterioration to pin-holing, this product has yet to prove itself. There are claims from the manufacturer that the “formula? has been perfected, but only time can tell that. 
We highly recommend a PVC membrane for low pitched roofs. PVC is the same product used for pool liners. It is strong, durable, and the brand we use, IB PVC, has yet to have one material failure. What makes this product so unique is the way in which it is installed. IB PVC is heat welded, not chemically fastened. This makes the seams stronger and IB is so confident in their product, they offer a lifetime warranty on it!! 
IB PVC comes in a variety of colors to match your home including red, grey, brown and even blue! “IB Traditions? is PVC with architectural shingle imprint on it giving it the appearance of traditional shingles, with the quality and protection of a superior product and a lifetime warranty.  
To install IB PVC, you must be licensed by the manufacturer. This is not an easy task. It includes on site training and a large initial investment. The result is a one time solution to all of your low pitched roofing issues, no formation of ice-dams, and the peace of mind that you have made a wise investment in your homes value with a reputable roofer backed by a very reputable company.
We strongly suggest you speak to a roofing professional about IB PVC if you have a low pitched or flat roof on your home or office building. 

Metal Roofing in CT
Metal Roofing in CT
Low Slope Rubber Roofing in CT
Low Slope Rubber Roofing in CT
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This article was written by Marcus Bernice Keilch (marcuskeilch@gmail.com) of Marcus Anthony Construction
Marcus Anthony Roofing
860-942-3555