How to Identify and Handle Ice Damage to A Roof!

Snow on roofA roofing system is the best protection for any weather conditions including heavy snow fall and frozen water. During a snow storm, common problems exist including the formation of ice dams on the ridge line, which can cause melting snow to dam and eventually penetrate the outer covering and eventually damage the integrity of the underlying structures. The destruction brought by ice damming every year results in thousands to millions of dollars. Since it is a such a costly problem, it would be very beneficial to be able to detect and identify signs of ice damage and avoid any resulting damage before it occurs.

Underlying Causes

There are several factors that contribute to ice damming. When such a think is occurring on the eaves right above the ridge line, it can prevent melting snow from running down the drain. This is aggravated by attic heat lost which is commonly due to the following reasons: lower Insulation R-value; poor ventilation; and air leakage.

When warm air rises to the attic level, it eventually will melt ice on the ridge; the melted ice in the form now of water travels down the roof and refreezes when it encounters the cold section of the roofing particularly on the overhang. This elicits the water building up behind the band of ice, staying on the roof surface, and eventually soaking into underlying material which can lead to water leakage.

Sitting water, irregardless of whether the system is brand new or not; will surely find its way around the shingles through small gaps between the sheathing.

Perceptible Signs

Basically, the primary visible sign of ice damming problems is leakage. Once the standing water seeps and penetrates the underlying structure, it will find its way down by virtue of gravity. Subsequent and perceptible signs of such a problem include: water-stained ceilings and walls; dislodged roofing materials; sagging gutters; bubbling, cracking, peeling, and blistering of interior wall paint; mold growth; and damaged plaster. All of these are easily detected and can be prevented under normal conditions. Nevertheless, water damage can also exist in hidden signs such as wet attic insulation that frequently goes unnoticed, although it can also be revealed with a thorough inspection.


The damage brought about by ice damming can be managed in several ways: making the roof air-tight, providing adequate ventilation; and insulation.

  • Air-Tight – Air leakage happens when small holes allow warm indoor air to travel into the attic space. This can be solved by avoiding any ceiling penetrations or by applying spray foam, caulking, and weather stripping to seal all leaks on existing buildings to make it air tight.
  • Adequate Ventilation – The most efficient method to cool the roof sheathing is to have a continuous soffit-to-ridge ventilation system so that the temperature can be maintained below the freezing point.
  • Insulation – Be sure that a house has the right insulation R-value of at least R-38 to prevent warm air escaping from the living space to the attic.
  • Other Measures – Additional methods to prevent such damage is to regularly make thorough inspections and check for signs of inadequate insulation, ventilation and potential air leakage. Applying heat tapes, cleaning the gutters, sealing possible areas prone to air leaks, and ensuring that existing intake vents are not blocked and preventing a continuous air-flow to the ridge can be done to eliminate ice damming problems.

It is very easy to detect the signs of ice damage because everything that deviates from normal could be a possible indication. Knowing specific signs could be a first step to combat and resolve any structural damage that could happen in the event water starts to leak. Being pro-active could be the key element. A roof with a good ventilation system, adequate insulation, and air-tight fittings. Should any of the above signs be detected, don’t hesitate to contact an expert roofer to handle them before more costly problems develop.

Are you looking for a roofer Houston company to handle any concerns you might have for your housetop covering? Schulte Roofing of Navasota provides assistance to the greater Houston metropolitan area and offers excellent service to all of their customers!