Homeowner’s Quick Guide to Ice Dams

In Blog, Community News, news, Real Estate on November 21, 2014 by Community Expert Team
Homeowner’s Quick Guide to Ice Dams

While the official first day of winter is still a couple weeks away, Minnesota is already feeling and seeing its effects. And as the season goes one, one thing that many homeowners will see are ice dams.

An ice dam is a ridge of ice that forms at the edge of a roof and prevents melting snow, or water, from draining off the roof. The water that can’t make it off the roof backs up behind the dam, and can leak into the house and damage walls, ceilings, insulation and other areas.

How do they form? Well, according to the University of Minnesota Extension, there’s a complex interaction among the amount of heat loss from a house, snow cover, and outside temperatures that leads to ice dam formation.

In its Ice Dams 101 article, home exterior experts Highmark Exteriors says that while you’d think ice dams would be caused by an attic that is too cold, in fact, it’s just the opposite.

“Your attic is a buffer zone between your toasty warm house and the freezing temps outside. Snow on the roof over a cold attic stays snowy,” Highmark Exteriors says. “But when an attic is too warm, it causes any snow on the roof to melt, which then runs down to the cooler area over the eaves, and refreezes.”

So how can you prevent ice dams? One of the easiest techniques is continually removing snow from the roof with a roof rake. This eliminates one of the necessary components for ice dams to form and ventilates the roof. In addition, make sure that air leaks into the attic space are sealed. Consider increasing the ceiling or roof insulation to cut down on heat loss by conduction.

If ice dams have already formed and are causing a leak in your home, This Old House suggests taking a box fan into the attic and aim it at the underside of the roof where water is actively leaking in.

“This targeted dose of cold air will freeze the water in its tracks,” the article said.

However, this isn’t a long-term fix. A more permanent fix will involved a lot more work, including making sure there is proper ventilation, sealing cracks and openings, adding insulation, caulking, and much more. See This Old House’s list of steps here, or call a local professional to assess the damage and recommend next steps.

Of course, it’s important to note that any work on your roof during the winter is incredibly dangerous. Be incredibly careful, or better yet, call the professionals out.

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This local update courtesy of your Waconia Community Expert.

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