When you think of a roof, what do you imagine it’s composed of? Most people only think of the shingles and don’t realize how many other components go into a complete roofing system. An ice and water shield is one of them.

Even though the name has “ice” in it, roofs in warm climates still need ice and water shield protectors. We want you to feel educated about all aspects of your roof, so this complete guide will cover:

  • What ice and water shields are
  • Where and how they are installed
  • The three main types of shields
  • The risks of forgoing ice and water shields

ice and water shield gutter

What Are Ice and Water Shields for Roofing?

Simply put, an ice and water shield is a waterproof membrane that protects the vulnerable areas on your roof from water and ice damage. It protects your roof decking if water accumulates or sneaks underneath your main roofing material (shingles, metal, etc.).

Even more simply put, it helps prevent roof leaks.

This material is made from polymer-modified bitumen, which is one of the specially engineered bitumen materials used in making pavement, flat roofs, and more heavy-duty products. The membrane is pretty impressive— it doesn’t shift from the pressure of snow or ice, and it seals around each nail in the roof, giving you superior leak protection.

You don’t need to install an ice and water shield on your entire roof. Instead, it should go on or around vulnerable areas, such as:

  • Roof valleys
  • Roof penetrations
  • Hips and valleys
  • Rakes and eaves

Every roof needs to have an ice and water shield, no matter the regional climate. However, if you live above the snow line in the US, you’re required to have an ice and water shield along the edges of your roof to prevent complications after snow or ice storms. If you live in an area with heavy snow, you’ll probably have two rows of the shield along your roof’s eaves and rakes, depending on your local codes.

Think of an ice and water shield as a large, very sturdy piece of rubber tape. It’s typically 3 feet wide with an adhesive back. Your roofing contractor simply peels away the backing and installs the shield in all the required areas on your roof.

3 Types of Ice and Water Shield Protectors

Not all ice and water protectors were created equal. There are three main types of shields that are used for different purposes:

  • Granular Surface: This shield is used specifically in roof valleys, and it’s the thinnest of the three types. It still gets the job done even though it isn’t as thick.
  • Smooth Surface: These shields are used on low slope roofs with a 2/12, 3/12, or 4/12 roof pitch.
  • High Heat: These shields are made from cotton-like fibers and are mostly used on metal roofs. The specific material ensures it doesn’t stick to the metal as it expands and contracts.

The Risks of Forgoing an Ice and Water Shield

One of the many dangers of DIY roofing or hiring your handyman neighbor to perform a roof replacement instead of a certified roofing company is that necessary parts of your roofing system may get overlooked completely.

Every region experiences precipitation at some point, and the second water gets under your shingles without an ice and water shield for protection, you’re looking at an annoying leak— and very expensive water damage.

Some more risks you face without an ice and water protector include:

Wind-Driven Rain 🌬️

Strong wind storms, tropical storms, and hurricanes, large gusts can push rain underneath your shingles. Wind-driven rain doesn’t have guaranteed coverage in many standard homeowners insurance policies, and it is simply not covered in flood insurance policies.

Without an ice and water shield, you risk having to pay completely out of pocket for expensive water damage caused by wind-driven rain seeping through your roof.

Ice Dams 🧊

In cold climates, snow can accumulate on roofs. And when the sun finally comes out, that accumulated snow begins to melt— flowing down your roof.

If temperatures drop before the snow has fully melted, that runoff water will refreeze into ice. When the temperature warms up again, this layer of ice often takes longer to melt than the snow behind it. So, it becomes an ice dam that holds back newly melted water and pushes it back up your roof and under your shingles.

That’s where the “ice” part of “ice and water shield” comes into play. Ice dams are dangerous occurrences for your roof, and you’re looking at trouble if you don’t have an ice and water protector under your asphalt shingles or metal roof.

ice and water shield ice dam

Other Severe Storms 🌪️

Inclement weather can often be random and intense. Depending on your region, you may experience tornadoes, hurricanes, hail storms, or other severe weather. Severe storms are notorious for being accompanied by powerful gusts of wind which can lift your shingles and leave your roof vulnerable to water exposure.

In this instance, your ice and water shield would prevent water from leaking into your house by guiding the water downward and into your gutters.

Comprehensive Roof Systems to Keep You Protected

Here at Gouge Quality Roofing, our expert roofing contractors know the importance of every single component of a complete roofing system. When it’s time for a roof replacement, you can trust that our skilled team will properly install an ice and water shield to ensure your home stays protected against leaks.

We’re happy to provide education about everything that makes up a complete roofing system. Just reach out to schedule a free inspection, and we’ll walk you through the entire process.