Minneapolis Ice Dams

How ice dams form
How ice dams form

Ice Dams and Ice Dam Removal

Here in the Minneapolis area as well as other parts of the upper midwest the heavier than usual early snowstorms in December have made conditions favorable for ice dams to form. This year homeowners that have never had ice dam issues in the past are seeing them form on their homes recently. Left on their own, ice dams can keep building up from the edge of roofs and cause water to back up under the shingles. Once the water starts backing up, it will sooner or later find its way into the house. As we all know, water entering the home will cause damage and the chance of mold forming increases. Ice dam removal can become a necessity rather than an option for some homeowners.

How Ice Dams Form

Ice dams are caused by a combination of heat loss from the house, snow that is built up on the roof and outside temperatures. For ice dams to form there must be snow on the roof and higher portions of the roof's exterior surface must be above 32°F while lower surfaces, near your overhangs, are below 32°F.

The snow on the warmer areas of the roof will melt and water will start to run toward the colder portions of your roof.  As the water flows and hits the area of the roof that is below 32°F the ice dams will begin to form.

The dam grows as it is fed by the melting snow above it. The ice dams will grown in the below freezing areas as more water flows to those areas.  The water that builds up behind the ide dams finds cracks and openings in the exterior roofing and flows into the attic space. From the attic it can flow into walls and ceilings and cause more damage.

Ice Dam Prevention

One step to help in the prevention of ice dams is to remove the snow from your roof. The safest way is to use a roof rake to remove the snow from the edges of your roof while you are standing safely on the ground. Removing a four foot strip of snow around the perimeter of your roof soon after a snowfall can help prevent an ice dam from forming. The next step in ice dam prevention is to find the cause or causes of the heat loss. It is the heat that is escaping through your roof that is melting the snow creating the ice dams. Heat loss can be caused by lack of proper insulation in your attic, heat loss around vent openings in your roof and improper attic venting. A building professional can offer solutions to help eliminate your ice dam problems.

Ice Dam Removal

As soon as you see icicles and/or a built up ridge of ice on the edges of your roof it is time for ice dam removal. You want to get the ice dams removed before you have water entering your home. Do not use a hammer, chisel, axe or torch. These methods can damage your home and you run the risk of injury by being up on a ladder or slippery roof. Two people have been killed so far this year in the Minneapolis area from injuries that were caused by the homeowner falling off of their roof while attempting ice dam removal. The safest method for you and your home is professional steaming. There are companies that offer their services for professional ice dam removal. They will first remove the snow from your roof and then use steam to melt the ice dams. Depending on the contractor, location and site conditions costs can range anywhere from $250 to $350 per hour. Steeper roofs make ice dam removal more difficult so that may have an impact on price by some of the contractors. Steaming an ice dam is really your best and quickest option for removal. Also, contact your insurance agent. Some homeowners have been able to claim the ice dam removal, especially if they have interior water damage. Many homeowners in Minnesota have seen thousands of dollars of damage done to the interior of their home already this year.

An ice dam that is being removed from the edge of a roof. These homeowners were experiencing a lot of water entering their home.
An ice dam that is being removed from the edge of a roof. These homeowners were experiencing a lot of water entering their home.
Ice dams on the edges with the heatloss are very visible.
Ice dams on the edges with the heatloss are very visible.
This is a roof after ice dam removal on a day with -20 windchill.
This is a roof after ice dam removal on a day with -20 windchill.
This home had severe water damage to the upper level. Heatloss is being caused by a secondary furnace located in the upper level.
This home had severe water damage to the upper level. Heatloss is being caused by a secondary furnace located in the upper level.

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Comments 3 comments

yellabelly profile image

yellabelly 5 years ago

Ice dam removal can also be accomplished by deicing the roof with heat. Check this out http://www.heatizon.com/products/radiant-roof-deic...


Peggy W profile image

Peggy W 4 years ago from Houston, Texas

Very interesting. We don't have to worry about ice dams building up on our roofs in Houston or anywhere in the South for that matter. But we still need good insulation in our attics to prevent the loss of cooling for most of the year.

Answered your query BTW about Texas Steers. Nice meeting you here via HubPages!


radiantheatingco 4 years ago

I second yellebelly's comment. It is better to prevent than to treat. You can do this by installing a snowmelt on your roof. http://www.radiantheatingco.com

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