Ice dams are an unpleasant part of winter for many Minnesota homeowners.
The Minnesota Department of Commerce offers tips for how to deal with ice dams now and how to prevent them in the future, which can also save you money on your heating bills.
One way to prevent ice dams is by removing snow from your roof. While you can try to do it yourself with a snow rake, it may be best to hire a professional snow remover, especially if it takes getting on the roof or using a ladder. Put safety first.
If you have an ice dam that is already causing water damage to your interior ceilings and walls, hire a professional ice dam removal service that uses steamers.
Here are a few things you should not do.
Do not install heating cables. They will shorten the life of your roof and add to your energy costs.
Do not remove ice with chippers, chemicals, or heat. These can damage shingles, gutters, and other building components.
Do not add roof vents, including powered vents. They will not eliminate ice dams and often make the problem worse.
Suggestions for preventing future ice dams
Ice dams are not caused by roofing, ventilation, or gutter problems, as often believed. The real problem is a home that is leaking warm air.
Due to inadequate air sealing, heat from the home's interior gets into the attic and melts the underside of the snow on the roof. The melted snow water flows down the roof surface until reaching a cold spot, such as the eaves or soffit, where it forms a frozen dam.
Over time, especially with a snow-covered roof in subfreezing temperatures, more ice can build up. Eventually, water starts seeping into the home.
Because the primary cause of ice dams is warm air leaking from the attic, the best prevention is to seal leaks with caulking or expanding spray foam, with attic insulation installed to a minimum of R-50 as space allows.
Energy assessment to save energy and prevent ice dams
An advanced home energy assessment, or audit, is an important step to preventing ice dams and making your home more energy efficient. The assessment will use equipment such as an infrared camera to find attic air leaks and how to seal them.
A home energy audit can be arranged through your local utility, a nonprofit energy group, or an HVAC professional.
Once problem areas are detected, get bids from at least two licensed contractors to have the work done.
For more information on preventing ice dams, sealing air leaks, and adding insulation, check out the Commerce Department’s Home Energy Guide.
Minnesota Energy Tips is provided twice a month by the Minnesota Department of Commerce, Division of Energy Resources. Contact the Commerce Department's Energy Information Center at email@example.com or 800-657-3710 with energy questions.
A printable PDF with tips for dealing with ice dams is available at https://mn.gov/commerce-stat/pdfs/ice-dams.pdf .