Let's talk ice dams: A hidden winter hazard that can come back to bite you.

February 18, 2022

Image of an Ice Dam in the gutters of a roof covered in snow.

Imagine a Minnesota winter without snow and ice. There would be no snowmobiling, sledding, snowmen, or snowball fights. Ice skating and ice fishing would not be possible. It’s a pretty bleak picture. Snow and ice certainly have their positives, but they can also combine to create a very real, bleak situation: ice dams on your roof.


What are ice dams?

The University of Minnesota Extension defines an ice dam as a ridge of ice that forms at the edge of a roof and prevents melting snow from draining off the roof. A number of things have to happen for an ice dam to form. First, there must be snow on the roof. If heat escapes from the attic, it will melt snow, which will then run down the roof. If it’s below freezing, that snowmelt will only go so far before it refreezes on the eaves. The more snow melts and refreezes, the thicker the ice dam gets and the more damage it can cause.


Are certain types of roofs more likely to get ice dams?

Homes with low-pitched roofs have the most trouble with ice dams. The more gradual the slope, the slower water runs off the roof, providing more time for it to refreeze and create an ice dam. Low-pitched roofs are also more susceptible to damage from ice dams because it takes less of a ridge to cause water to back up. The vast majority of ice dams occur along the eaves, but can also form in valleys, near skylights and openings such as vents and pipes, and above interior rooms with vaulted ceilings where heat can concentrate, such as bathrooms.


What can happen if ice dams go unchecked?

As ice dams build up, they add weight to your gutters, which can cause damage. As water backs up once it reaches the ice dam, it can get under shingles and loosen them. In worst-case scenarios, water can actually infiltrate your roof. That can lead to dangerous mold and mildew growth and damage to walls and ceilings.


How can ice dams be removed?

There are companies that specialize in removing ice dams using steam, but this service comes with a hefty price tag. You can also use hot water to remove the ice dam yourself, but it can be dangerous. Another DIY option is to fill tube socks with calcium chloride and place them on top of the ice dams. It is very important not to use sodium chloride, or rock salt, as it can damage your roof and any vegetation beneath it.


How can ice dams be prevented?

A short-term way to prevent ice dams is to have the snow removed from your roof, a service Keyprime provides. Long term, the best way to prevent ice dams is to prevent heat from escaping from the roof of your home. How do you determine if that is happening? Keyprime offers energy efficiency audits to identify problem areas within your home. If you’re interested in learning more about your home’s energy efficiency or if you have concerns about your roof, contact Keyprime today.


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