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Ice Dams: What Are They and Why They Matter

Posted by Northface Construction  - Owner & Founder

Hotdish. Passive aggressiveness. Ice dams.

If you live in Minnesota, then odds are you’ve encountered all three of these things before. The first two can easily be dealt with (especially if it’s a tasty hotdish), but ice dams, on the other hand, are a more troubling nuisance.

If you’re fortunate enough to have never dealt with an ice dam on your home, then you might not know just how damaging these frozen blockages can be. However, if you have had an ice dam on your home before, you are well aware of the potential harm it can cause.

The following circumstances may cause ice dams to form on your roof:

Poor insulation can cause those fluctuations in temperature and are the main culprit of ice dams. So today, we’re going to break down all that more. Plus, learn what exactly an ice dam is, the issues they can cause, and how to get rid of them.

Hot and Cold: How Ice Dams Form

ice dams
Courtesy of State Farm

The way ice dams form is quite interesting. Many people assume that it’s simply caused by snow on your roof freezing.

What happens is the lack of proper ventilation causes snow near the top of your roof to melt (heat rises). Once the snow melts, it moves down your roof until it reaches a point where the roof is below 32 degrees. Then, it refreezes.

That might not sound like a big deal, as you’ve likely seen icicles on your roof, which eventually melt, and your roof ends up being okay.

However, where the trouble arises is from other snow that melts near the top of your roof. Eventually, if the ice dam gets too backed up, the melted snow will stay melted because it can’t reach that freezing point. Then, you’ll have a giant puddle of water sitting on your roof.

Any time you have standing water on your roof is a major problem. Even a new roof is susceptible to letting standing water through cracks and into your home. Water damage can lead to some serious issues and costly repairs. If you notice you have an ice dam forming, take the proper steps to get rid of it before the water has a chance to build up.

How Do Ice Dams Damage Your Home? 

Ice dams are a major concern and highly damaging if you do not take the appropriate measures to avoid or treat them. Their weight and the water from melting snow and ice can create some pretty severe circumstances. Here are some ways ice dams can damage your roof:

In addition to potential damage, ice dams are also hazardous for anyone walking near your home. For example, if you have ice dams built up near the gutters by your front walkway or driveway, they could fall on someone walking by. Addressing them right away and preventing them is key to keeping you, your family, and your home safe.

ice dams

Removal: How to Get Rid of Ice Dams

There is really only one proper way to get rid of ice dams, and that’s using a low-pressure steamer. Any credible or trustworthy roofer will use a steamer instead of hot pressure washers or any other technique for that matter.

Here are some surefire ways NOT to remove ice dams from your roof.

ice dam removal

Prevention: How to Avoid Ice Dams Altogether

As previously mentioned, ice dams are caused by a lack of ventilation in your attic. So one way to stop ice dams from forming is to improve that ventilation. You can suck out the insulation in your attic and then use spray foam as an alternative. This is a relatively simple process but can be costly.

Here are some steps you can take to prevent ice dams from coming back after your initial removal.

Get a Blower Door Test

A blower door test can pinpoint weak spots and air leaks within your home that may be causing inconsistencies with your internal (and external) home temperature. These small air leaks can cause significant issues ranging from higher energy bills to ice dams, and getting them repaired is a quick, easy fix.

Always Keep Your Gutters Clean

During the fall months, ensure you keep your gutters and downspouts clear of leaves and other debris. If winter comes and the gutters are clogged, they are already at risk of causing ice dams because the snowmelt cannot flow off of your roof and instead freezes on top of your gutters.

clean gutters

Snow and Ice Removal

Keeping snow and ice off your roof on a regular basis. Professionals can come roof rake the snow off your roof after a heavy snowfall, but we don’t recommend you attempt to use a roof rake (or a regular rake or shovel) yourself.

Re-Insulating Your Attic

A poorly insulated attic is one of the main reasons you may get recurrent ice dams. This is because the warm air near the top of your roof melts down and freezes near the cold spots on the edges of your roof. By re-insulating or adding insulation to your attic, you can boost your attic’s R-value and improve the insulation in your home to prevent ice dams and make you feel nice and cozy in the winter months.

attic insulation

Contact Northface Construction Today for Your Roofing Needs

If you do find yourself in need of some assistance with getting rid of an ice dam that has formed, then call Northface Construction today. We use the steam method when it comes to freeing up homes from ice. Not only will we get rid of any ice, but we are also your solution for making any repairs that need to happen from the heavyweight on your roof.

Give us a call today at (763)332-6290 if you need help making sure that your home stays safe during the winter. You can also fill out this brief form for a free estimate. We’re looking forward to hearing from you and helping your home survive the winter!

*thumbnail courtesy of dmcroof*



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