How to Prevent Ice Dams and Snow Build-up on Farm Buildings

Oct 20, 2020 2 min read

When it snows, it often snows a lot. With a lot of snow build-up, it can put a lot of pressure on the roofs of your buildings. Make sure you’re watching out for ice dams and snow overload on every roof of your operation.

What Is an Ice Dam?

An ice dam is a ridge of ice that forms on the edge of a roof. It prevents the melting snow from draining off the roof. With nowhere to go the water backs up behind the dam and can leak into the building or cause damage to walls, ceilings or insulation.

What Causes an Ice Dam?

Heat loss from the building, snow cover and outside temperature all interact to form ice dams. For an ice dam to form, there must be snow on the roof. Then, at the same time, the higher areas of the roof’s surface must be above freezing while the lower areas of the surface must be below freezing. As snow melts from the higher areas and moves down the roof, it freezes and creates the ice dam. The more melting snow, the more the dam grows. If the dam grows too far up, the melting snow will remain liquid, and with no where to go, will find cracks and openings in the roof to flow through.

How to Prevent Ice Dams

You can take immediate and long-term actions to avoid ice dams. The best thing to do is remove the snow from your roof. Hiring a professional to do this is the safest option. If you see an ice dam forming, hosing the area on a warmer day will help create channels through the dam that the water can drain from. A channel is only a temporary solution and will become ineffective after a few days.

If you’re looking to act now, to avoid any ice dams in the future, start by making sure the ceilings are airtight. You don’t want any warm, moist air rising to the top and causing the roof to warm up.  After you’ve sealed any air leaks, consider adding insulation to cut down on heat loss further.

Increased Snow Load

Since you’re taking steps to no longer allow snow to melt on your roof, the snow load will be heavier for your roofs to hold. But, if your buildings are built to codes, they should not have a structural problem with the increased load.

Other things that could increase the snow build-up on your buildings are:

  • Roof pitch: Snow doesn’t slide off flatter roofs.
  • Drifting: Wind blowing can create huge snow drifts with unbalanced snow loads.
  • Overhangs: These could drop snow or ice onto another roof below it.
  • Shingled or roof decks: These don’t shed snow as easily as metal roofs.
  • Roof valleys: These will collect a lot of snow.

How to Prevent Roof Collapses From Ice and Snow

If you are concerned with an increased snow load, there are ways to prevent collapses or other damage to your roof. Make sure to try and clear the snow off as soon as you can. Before you begin removing snow or enter a building with excessive snow load, check for signs of damage.

  • Look at the sidewalls to make sure there aren’t any bulges or indications that knee braces have failed.
  • Make sure the roof line is still straight.
  • When you enter the building, check the ceiling, open trusses and walls for damage.
  • If you see any damage, do not attempt to climb onto the roof or enter the building while the snow remains on the roof.

As you prepare your farm/ranch for snow, make sure you’re doing what you can to prevent ice dams and heavy snow loads before the weather hits. Contact your Farm Bureau agent to make sure your insurance is ready for winter weather.

Want to learn more?

Contact a local FBFS agent or advisor for answers personalized to you.