How To Fix and Prevent Ice Dams

Winter in Minnesota is gorgeous, but this year's fluctuating temperatures created some serious ice dams! Ice dams are those unnatural wonders that form when the edge of the roof—typically the gutter—is filled with ice, preventing melting snow and ice from draining off the roof. Looking for an alternate route, water typically finds its way into the home and creates water damage to ceilings, walls, and insulation. Who wants mold and mildew infesting their home? Yuck! So here are some tried and true methods to fix your ice dam woes.Ice dams can not only be removed, but they can also be prevented. Make sure you do each of these steps with care to minimize damage to the roof and yourself!

Ice Dam Is In Place...and Leaking

1. Snow Removal: The first step is to remove as much water from the roof as possible. Grab a snow rake or fashion one out of a long pole with a flat edge at the end. Simply "rake" the snow off of the roof. Make sure you shovel the snow away from the foundation of your home to prevent any additional leaking.

2. Channel: The next step if you have water leaking into your home is to create channels for the water to escape past the dam. Some use picks and rubber hammers to create paths and others use warm water to break through the ice. This is only a temporary solution, though.

3. Chip: Here is where you call in the professionals. Most ice dams need to be completely removed if leaking has occurred. So let the professionals step in with their tools and knee-pads to completely chip away the ice from the roof. The roof should be ice-free when they are finished. This past winter in Minnesota there were several fatal incidents when homeowners decided to take on the ice dam themselves, so we highly recommend calling this one in. They are also experienced in chipping away the ice without demolishing your roof.

4. Steam: Another option when bringing in the professionals is to melt the ice dam with heat mats and/or hot water. Just like the chipping method, the ice should be completely gone when they are finished. One concern homeowners often have is that the melting process or addition of hot water will lead to more water damage. This can be the case dependent on your roof and your house, so it is something to consider. We do not recommend running your garden hose onto your roof if you have a large ice dam. We speak from secondhand experience on this one.

Since typically ice dams that are causing trouble are already leaking, it is assumed that you may need to have some work done to your home once the weather warms. Below are some tips for preventing future ice dams, but be sure to ask the professionals why your house leaked and to make sure that any damage, both water damage and roof damage, is taken care of before next winter. Water damage can lead to serious mold and mildew problems in insulation, ceilings, and walls.

Preventing Future Ice Dams

1. Heat Wires: One option to prevent future ice dams is to install heated wires that run along the edge of your roof. They help melt the snow before it turns into ice and then ice dams.

2. Roof Assessment: Getting your roof assessed by a professional can help determine ice dam vulnerabilities. Ice dams are often the result of heat transfer from the home, so each home is different. Typically these studies will assess whether your home is air tight, and if not the heat from your home could be leaking toward your roof and adding to your ice dam woes. If approaching this issue on your own, please consider effective ventilation as well. We recommend including this step as part of a home energy audit to get more bang for your buck!

For more information, check out the University of Minnesota's article on Ice Dams.

We have heard rumors of Urea Fertilizers and other methods as well. Any reader tips on what has worked best for you?

(Images: Radiant Solutions, Alternative Energy Blog, Horizon Energy Systems, 1800 New Roof, RainMan Rain Gutters, Active Rain)

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