Minn. Residents Don’t Need to Be Left Out in the Cold When it Comes to Ice Dams

January 31, 2005

Take advantage of the moderate winter weather and prepare for an inevitability of winter in Minnesota: ice dams.

Many homeowners reportedly run the risk of developing ice dams, which occur after a heavy snowfall and several days of freezing temperatures. Large icicles are a tell-tale sign that a home has an ice dam. If left untreated, ice dams can damage one’s home, inside and out.

According to the Insurance Information Institute, more than 10 percent of all catastrophic losses are the result of winter storms and the average homeowners claim for water damage and freezing is $3,098.

What is an ice dam?

— a ridge of ice forms a dam at the edge of a roof and prevents melting snow from draining off the roof
— the water that backs up behind the dam will find a way to escape, and will leak into a home and cause damage to walls, ceilings, and insulation
— the dams form because heat escapes from the house through the attic and heats the roof and melts the snow
— the roof at the eave is cold, so the water that traveled down the roof slope freezes again.

There are short-term and long-term things people can do to remove a current ice-dam, and more importantly lower the chance they will get one next winter.

“If you have an ice dam, don’t go up on the roof and try to remove it. We can’t stress enough how risky it is to climb on an icy roof. Call your insurance agent and find out how to fix the problem,” said Al Parsons, Insurance Federation of Minnesota president and CEO.

One remedy many homeowners employ is to pull the snow off the leaves using a roof rake or push broom. While this will remove snow, it may also damage one’s roofing materials. Shingles are particularly vulnerable when they are cold and brittle. If people decide to rake the roof, consider a rake on wheels or a similar device to keep the contact with shingles to a minimum. (Check hardware or home improvement stores.)

Long-term solutions will need to be handled once winter ends.
The following should be done:

— increase the ceiling/roof insulation to cut down on heat loss by
conduction (heat traveling through a solid, such as a roof)
— make the ceiling air tight so no warm air can flow from the house into the attic space.
— contact a licensed roofing contractor or weatherization contractor to provide the expertise.

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