Get Ready for Hurricanes and Ice Dams

September 20, 2018 | Filed under: Newsletter Articles

hurricanes and ice-dams

Well, September is here. Lots of thoughts of fall colors, bonfires, football games, fun times with family and friends, and pumpkin spice…“you name it”. But, depending upon where you live, there are two major topics raising concerns for homeowners these days when it comes to roofing. Those concerns are Hurricanes and Ice Dams; different things with different impacts but both equally threatening. So, let’s take a look at Hurricanes and Ice Dams and perhaps give you some food for thought to go with your pumpkin scone and your pumpkin spice latte.

HURRICANES

It looked for a while like the US would escape any significant activity this hurricane season but, as ocean waters have warmed, we’ve seen things change a bit, and it now seems increasingly likely that this will be a more violent hurricane season than earlier anticipated.

Over the past year, the construction industry has taken a serious look at roof performance following the major hurricanes that devastated Florida, Texas, and the Caribbean during the 2017 season. As a company, Classic Metal Roofing Systems has done extensive visitation to Florida and Texas this year as well as consulted with numerous property owners and contractors in the Caribbean. Our goal is to assess roof performance and be able to provide our customers with ideas that will provide enhanced protection for their homes in the future.

Here are a few key observations we have made which we feel will have a significant positive impact on roof performance during extreme wind events:

  • Current Building Code Compliance
    While sometimes it can be aggravating to have to deal with new building codes, they do serve a purpose. We have observed much better performance from roofs and homes built according to these new requirements than from older structural designs.
  • Airborne Debris
    Your roof is only as safe as your neighbors’ roofs. Particularly in the instance of tile roofs that blow off, we have seen significant damage to roofs when materials from other roofs land on them. Similar problems can be caused by trees and limbs that blow against the house, setting off roof damages.
  • Metal Consistently Out-Performs Other Materials
    Even as it ages, metal roofs retain their wind resistance compared to other materials which weaken or become brittle over the years. We have observed many times that other materials become less resilient with age while metal retains its wind resistance. (As a side note, aluminum roofing will out-perform steel in corrosive coastal environments.)

How to Prepare for Hurricane Strength Winds

If you find yourself in an area concerned about hurricanes this season, we suggest a thorough roof inspection by a qualified contractor. There may be loose areas or other problems on your roof which, if addressed now, can help with performance during a storm. Also, ask your contractor to make sure that your attic ventilation is properly balanced and functioning. If air rushes into your attic and then can’t escape through well-balanced exhaust vents, your roof decking will sustain great pressure from the air inside the attic. Such stresses can dislodge the decking, leading to roof damages.

Next, secure any loose items in your yard, hopefully preventing them from becoming airborne during wind gusts. Finally, ensure that any trees near your home and roof are cut back to help avoid contact with your home. These are all steps that can help your roof achieve peak performance during hurricanes.

ICE DAMS

Perhaps hurricanes are not a worry where you live, but maybe ice dams are. We want to provide some insight for you this month as well. Of course, for some of you in the northeastern United States, both hurricanes and ice dams could be concerns in coming months.

Ice dams generally result from one of two things, or perhaps a combination of both:

  1. Air Leaks. Warm air from a home’s living space leaks into the attic and if not properly vented out, warms the roof deck from the underside, causing snow to melt. But then the melted water re-freezes over the home’s overhangs, resulting in a growing and progressive ice dam.
  2. Roof Geometry. The shape and directionality of the roof simply result in areas where snow melts on the roof due to heat from the sun but then runs into “log jams” of converging snow loads on the roof and can’t escape, eventually re-freezing after the sun goes down.

So, what can you do to prevent ice dams? First of all, it is critical to ensure that air or heat leaks from your home’s living space into the attic are sealed. These leaks can result from poor insulation or from things like ceiling light fixtures that are not properly sealed. Look also at attic access hatches, skylight chases, and alongside chimneys.

After air leaks have been eliminated, having good attic ventilation is critical to vent out any heat that does make its way into the attic. It may surprise you but the goal is to keep your attic temperature as close as possible to outside temperatures during both the summer and the winter. Proper ventilation requires an equal balance of intake vents (usually at the bottom of the roof) and exhaust vents near the ridge of the peak of the roof.

If air leaks and ventilation have been addressed and problems with ice dams persist, then it usually comes down to the shape of your roof and “log jams” of sliding snow and ice as described above in the second point about shape and directionality of your roof. For these situations, it is usually necessary to use heat to melt the ice on the roof and alleviate the ponding of damaging water behind the ice dams.

One thing to keep in mind is that interior damages result from ponded water that makes its way into the home. The ice itself is not so much the problem. Therefore, if you can provide an “escape route” for the melted snow to exit the roof, the ice dam does not continue to grow from melted water that re-freezes and the water does not make its way into the home.

While many of the heating systems designed to melt snow and ice available today concentrate on the eave edge of the roof, they often do not heat far enough up on the roof to effectively relieve any ponded water. A product like Ice Dam Cutter,with heated bars that extend vertically up the roof, can work magic on troublesome ice areas by allowing melted water to escape the roof. Ice Dam Cutter needs to be combined with heat cable in the home’s gutters and downspouts so that the melted water can get away from the rooftop.

If you continue to struggle with ice dams, give us a call at 1-800-543-8938. We’d be happy to talk through your situation and lend our advice. And, while metal roofing is not a “cure all” for ice dams, it can play a role in alleviating troublesome situations.

So, with that, we do hope that you are well and safe this season and able to enjoy bonfires, autumn colors, pumpkin spice “everything”, and time with family and friends rather than be worried about hurricanes and ice dams. However, if you are in areas where those things can be problems, we hope that we have provided some helpful tips.

Please contact us whenever we can be of help.