Winter in Minnesota means snow and ice. This creates the beautiful winter landscape that many of us treasure, but it can also lead to roof and home damage caused by ice dams. So how can ice dams be treated – or better yet, prevented?
First, let’s examine the cause of ice dams. When snow accumulates on a rooftop, it can begin melting almost instantaneously, due to the heat from the sun or from inside the building, or simply from warmer weather conditions. The melted snow runs down the roof and, often begins to cool once more. When it freezes, an ice dam begins to form. As winter progresses, ice dams worsen. And with our months-long upper Midwest winters, dams can do some serious damage.
So how can homeowners prevent ice dams? Here are a few easy steps:
- Add insulation to the attic floor to keep the heat in the house and the roof cold.
- Seal and insulate HVAC and exhaust ducts.
- Add steel flashing around chimneys. Avoid spray foam or insulation, which isn’t safe near fires.
- Ventilate ridge and eaves to circulate cold air under the entire roof.
- Cap the attic hatch to prevent heat from escaping.
- Ensure that kitchen, bathroom and dryer vents are ventilating outdoors, not through the soffit.
- Seal vent pipes and electrical cables.
Due to newer, stricter energy codes, many homes built within the last 25 years have all of these items checked off. If you’re in a new-to-you home and are unsure whether your attic is well-insulated, it’s a good idea to call a reputable insulation company to check things out.
If you end up with an ice dam, it’s best to call a professional removal service. Don’t risk injury or further damage by chipping away at the ice yourself! Professionals use steaming equipment or salt to melt the ice, making it a much faster and safer process.