Grand County: Take steps early to prevent roof ice buildup |

Grand County: Take steps early to prevent roof ice buildup

by Cyndi Palmer
Grand County Homes and Properties

After several recent, significant snowstorms throughout Grand County homeowners are starting to see quite a bit of snow accumulation on their rooftops. But what they may not know is that too much of it can cause serious damage if not removed properly.

Your property is one of your most valuable investments and it is important to keep an eye on those snowy rooftops.

One of the most damaging results of heavy snow on a roof is the formation of what are called ice dams along the edge, in corners, and pretty much anywhere the snow could have melted and re-frozen (caused when the hot air from inside the home meets the cold of the snow on the rooftop).

Clear signs that this is happening are the sparkling icicles that usually form around the edges and corners, water stains on the interior ceiling, peeling paint, or moldy odors within the home.

For those lucky enough to build their own home, several items may be implemented during the planning and building process to lessen or altogether prevent snow build-up on roofs during the winter season. Cold roof systems leave a continuous air barrier between the warm air coming up from the home and the roof sheathing. Other suggestions involve a steep pitch to a rooftop, a more simple roofline, proper and perhaps even doubled ice and water shield application, and ventilation.

There’s also much to be said about using the right materials.

Metal roofs were once considered the best for cold, snowy climates, but many argue that not only are they expensive and let go of their loads spontaneously, but shingles are just as good ” as long as attention is spent on the roofing design and insulation (spray foam encouraged).

“I am the first to admire an architectural work of art structure. However, in our mountain climate, thought to building science and conservatism can go a long way when it comes to designing a mountain roof that will stand up to our extreme weather,” said Joe Gould of The Roofing Company. (Gould has 17 years of construction experience and has been working for TRC since September).

“Insulate, insulate and insulate,” he said. “Builders are becoming more and more educated about the superiority of super-insulating the underside of the roof deck through use of open-cell or closed-cell spray foam insulation. When they use this technique, the possibility of ice dams forming are greatly reduced due to the simple physics of little-to-no warm air making its way to the exterior roof surface,” he said.

“For older homes with blown-in or batted insulation, (several companies specialize) in this retrofitting so the homeowner can get all the benefits that super-insulating has to offer. The absolute best roof system, if cost is not an issue, is to use the last technique of super-insulating and add on top of that a cold roof.”

For the rest of us who have moved into a structure built by someone else, there are many tips to help homeowners shed their worries and roof weight, as well as several professional businesses who specialize in doing the snow removal job for you.

For the sake of your roof and a home’s structural integrity, homeowners are encouraged to regularly remove snow from the tops of their homes, usually if the depth is six inches or more. Homeowners can significantly reduce the possibility of interior water damage to their home or business by following several precautionary measures. Many homeowners prefer to remove the snow using a long-handled snow roof rake, which can be purchased at local hardware or building supply stores.

If homeowners are only able to reach the last few feet of the roof this method has been known to only create ice dams at a different location. However, several new rakes have been designed for a longer reach with wheels to lift the rake off the roof surface a few inches to save damage to roofing materials.

Remember: For safety when climbing a ladder at least one more person should be there to hold the ladder.

It is recommended that “eave raking” not be the method used all the time, but rather intermittently between heavy periods of snow and/or professional snow removal.

“It’s just not the answer-all,” Gould said. Staying ahead of snow accumulation is what he calls “preventative maintenance” and what he and other roofers feel is the “key in preventing costly future roof repairs.”

But snow removal is dangerous and physically demanding, and caution must be kept in mind with the tools that are used for the job. If snow depth is significantly high, it is suggested that homeowners hire a contractor for the project.

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