Avoiding Damage from Ice Dams & Freeze Cycles

Posted: Apr 06, 2024

As winter weather descends upon commercial properties, business owners must brace themselves against the looming threats of ice dams and freeze/thaw cycles. Ice dams and freeze/thaw cycles pose significant threats to commercial properties. However, business owners can minimize these risks with proactive planning and maintenance.

The Dangers of Ice Dams and Freeze/Thaw Cycles for Commercial Properties

  1. Roof Damage

    Unlike the more “traditional” sloped residential roof, most commercial-style roofs are flat. As snow freezes overnight and melts again during higher daytime temperatures, this can cause ice dams to accumulate along roof edges. Once water is unable to drain off the roof properly, it can cause leaks, structural damage, and even potential roof collapse under the weight of accumulated ice and snow.

  2. Water Damage

    Water trapped by ice dams will eventually seep into buildings and damage insulation, interior walls/ceilings, and even the structure itself as it filters downward. Freeze/thaw cycles only make things worse by causing water expansion and contraction within building materials, which leads to cracking and accelerated deterioration.

  3. Gutter and Drainage Damage

    As ice dams freeze and expand, they can damage gutters, downspouts, and other drainage components. Improper drainage can cause water to drain off the edge of the roof and accumulate around the building’s perimeter, which can damage the building’s foundation over time.

  4. Injury Risks

    Ice dams can greatly grow in size via freeze/thaw cycles, creating icicles and chunks of ice that can fall and cause severe injuries or property damage. Improper drainage can also create icy conditions on the ground level; any water that accumulates around building entrances, exterior stairs and ramps, and other walkways can turn to sheet ice overnight, greatly increasing the risks of slip and fall accidents.

How to Prevent Damage from Ice Dams and Freeze/Thaw Cycles

  1. Insulation and Ventilation

    Varied roof temperatures and hot spots caused by inadequate insulation can cause snow to melt unevenly, which will travel to cooler spots on the roof and refreeze to create ice dams. Proper insulation and ventilation in commercial buildings prevents heat from escaping through the roof and maintains more consistent temperatures, reducing the likelihood of ice dams forming.

  2. Regular Roof Maintenance

    Routine inspections of the roof, gutters, and drainage systems will help identify and address potential issues before they escalate into major problems during the winter. A relatively simple cleaning or repair during the warmer months could prevent spending thousands of dollars on emergency repairs and property damage come snow season.

  3. Snow and Ice Removal

    Removing snow and ice from roofs and gutters quickly is one of the best ways to keep ice dams from forming. Professional snow removal contractors have the tools and experience to effectively clear roofs and gutters, protecting the building from the lingering effects of snow dams and freeze/thaw cycles.

  4. Roof Heating Systems

    A more passive solution to snow and ice accumulation on roofs is rooftop heating systems. These use electricity to create heat, which prevents snow from sticking to surfaces and keeps surfaces warm enough to prevent ice from forming overnight. Although they tend to be costly upfront, roof heating systems are incredibly effective at keeping roofs and drainage systems clear, greatly reducing the risk of property damage or injuries.

  5. Landscape Management

    Although ice dams tend to create the most trouble up on the roof, they can also create issues at ground level. Water that isn’t being properly diverted via gutters and downspouts tends to drain off the edge of the roof, which can lead to extensive damage to the building’s exterior and foundation. Water that doesn’t drain properly can also create icy hazards around the building entrance, stairs and ramps, and any other areas where it flows unintentionally. Grading and drainage improvements may be worthwhile considerations as a bit of a backup to roof maintenance in order to prevent icy conditions on the property.

    Prevent Ice Dams and Other Winter Property Hazards with Snow Management Services

    The snow management experts at SMS have the equipment and experience to keep your Denver area commercial property safe during even the roughest winter weather. With almost 30 years of experience, we can tailor a snow management plan that fits your needs and budget. We are fully equipped to offer the full range of snow and ice removal services that will keep your property safe and presentable no matter what Mother Nature brings our way.

    To see how SMS can help your Denver-area business or commercial property, give us a call today at (303) 750-8867 or get in touch with us online to get started.