Ice Dams Still Causing Problems For Minnesota Homeowners

Ice Dam Removal | Steam Removal of Ice Dams

Ice damming is a big problem here in Minnesota this year. Record snowfall amounts in December, preceded and interspersed by bouts of sleety precipitation, produced the perfect storm for ice dams to flourish.

“There’s a lot of leaks out there,” say Minnesota roofing contractors, who have been taking calls for help. After a series of wimpy winters, this one and last year’s have prompted ice dams to return with a vengeance. As a result, Minnesota homes are being affected much earlier than usual this year.

Ice dams form when snow accumulates on a roof that’s too warm, then melts and drains down to refreeze at the colder overhangs of eaves. The water that collects behind the frozen dams may seep through the roof and down into a structure. Poorly insulated and inadequately vented attics are the biggest contributors to ice buildups, which can be mitigated by clearing snow from roofs.

Long-handled roof rakes can be employed to pull off the first few feet of snow behind eaves, but locally they’ve become a scarcity. Menards ran out over the weekend, and Home Depot’s supply was depleted for the third time this winter.

Complete removal of roof snow is best, and is best if the work is done by a contractor using a steam unit to clear heavy snow and ice buildups. This method melts the ice dam in a manner that will not damage your roof.

Ice shield membranes, routinely installed along roof edges before new shingles are installed, make a big preventative difference when it comes to water issues produced by ice dam formations.

Prior to five or six years ago building codes called for membranes to extend three feet up from an exterior wall. Under the new code, 6-foot rows of membranes are now standard, and some homeowners request even more. Some people have wanted a membrane on the entire roof.

Contractors say that an ounce-of-prevention is worth-a-pound-of-cure. Thousands of homeowners in the community who had new roofs installed following severe summer storms may have been lulled into a false sense of security. Ice shield membranes guard against water penetration but can’t prevent ice dams that, if left untended, can extend upward beyond the shields.

According to the University of Minnesota Extension Service, problems occur when a series of conditions coincide:

A roof’s upper surface must average above 32 degrees for sustained periods while the lower surfaces average below freezing temperatures. The dams form in the areas that are below freezing, and water collects behind them in areas that are not.

In addition to removing roof snow, ice dam prevention involves controlling heat loss from the house to the attic. This can be achieved by enhancing ceiling insulation that keeps heat out of the attic, thereby preventing the roof from heating up, and by keeping roof vents free of snow.

And as a related precaution, snow should be cleared away from outside gas meters to guard against blockage of regulator vents that could cause gas leaks inside the home.

If you are one of the many Minnesota homeowners with roof damage from ice dams, contact a Minnesota roofing contractor today!

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