How to Prevent Ice Dams

A Metal Roof Can Help

One of the magical parts of winter is the snow that can tend to pile up.  Some years Billings sees a lot of snow, other years it is dry (and usually windy).  Often you will see homes that have icicles hanging off the side creating a bit of a picturesque scene that makes you think of Hallmark cards and fantasy Christmas villages.  The problem, however, is that icicles are bad.

prevent ice dams on a house in Billings, MT

Icicles mean that your home isn’t properly insulated.  And they can be an indicator of problems that you don’t quite see.  Ice dams can cause serious damage to your home, and once they’ve started growing, they are difficult to get rid of (until the weather warms again).


What is an Ice Dam?

The ice dam is essentially a blockade of melted and re-frozen snow.  They develop like this:

  • Snow melts off the roof due to poor insulation.
  • The water trickles down until it gets over the eve where there is no longer warmth coming from below.
  • At this point the water freezes creating a small layer of ice.
  • More snow melt flows down and hits the ice dam freezing again making the layer of ice even thicker.
  • This continues and the ice dam gets larger and larger, pushing back onto the roof.

As the ice dam forms, some of the water will drip over the edge and turn into pretty looking icicles.  But the problem is the ice that remains on top of the roof.

Icicles can damage seamless gutters

Why are Ice Dams Bad?

The problem is when water from the newly melted snow can’t flow off the roof, and instead it starts to back up.  Asphalt shingles are designed to shed water as it travels down toward the ground, not back up.  When the water goes back up, such as after being stopped by an ice dam, it pushes underneath the shingles and can end up leaking into the home causing further problems.

You want to prevent ice dams from happening.

Put a metal roof on your Billings, MT home


How to Prevent Ice Dams

There are few ways that you can prevent ice dams from happening.  Some are easier, but only temporary solutions.  Others are harder, but will be more effective.

Good – You can put a roof de-icing cable on top of the shingles to melt the snow and keep it melted as it flows off the roof.  These cables are cheap (under $50), and easy to install (a couple hours depending on the size needed).  You plug them in when the snow starts to fall and they keep the area warm so the liquid flows right off the roof.  The problem is that they aren’t really proactive ice dam prevention.

Better – A better option is to upgrade your roof.  Snow will slide off of a metal roof and flop harmlessly to the ground.  Getting the snow off the roof before it melts is always a good idea.  However, you will still have some problems with the snow that doesn’t full slide off.  While there aren’t shingles for the ice to back up under, it can still back up under the very end of the metal roof.

Even Better – When you upgrade to a better roof, you can have heating tape installed under the metal roof.  This keeps the cable hidden and prevents damage, and it will heat up the whole area allowing the water to slide right off.  It combines the ease of the de-icing cable and the effectiveness of a metal roof.

Best – The best way to prevent ice dams is to eliminate the source entirely.  The dams are caused by heat coming up from the home and melting the snow.  Proper insulation will allow the snow to simply sit on top of the house and melt when the air temperatures rise enough.  Your home will be more comfortable, and you will eliminate the ice dam problem.


Beartooth Metal Roofing Installs Metal Roofs in Billings, MT

Upgrading from shingles to metal isn’t hard to do.  Just give Beartooth Metal Roofing a call and we can come take care of the rest.  If you have problems with icicles or ice dams (that you know of), let us know and we can work out the proper solution that will best suit your needs.

Are you ready for a beautiful new metal roof on your Billings home?  Call 406-839-0084 to schedule a time to get a bid.