Winter weather brings many beloved Minnesota activities, including skiing, hockey, hot cocoa, and the beauty of a snow-covered landscape. But the cold temperatures and heavy snowfall also usher in something much less desirable: ice dam season.
So whether you own a home or commercial building, understanding the basics of ice dam removal and prevention is essential.
What Causes Ice Dams?
Ice dams form when roof ice melts and reforms on the eaves and valleys of your roof.
Why does this happen?
Heat escapes from the attic and intersects with the cold outside air. As a result, snow resting up against your roof begins to melt but quickly refreezes. This process happens repetitively until a significant layer of ice builds up along the roofline, inhibiting the gutters from carrying water away from the house.
Over time, this water can creep up under the shingles. In addition, water can penetrate the building’s envelope and cause interior water damage if the home has a compromised moisture barrier.
What Damage Can Ice Dams Cause?
The water damage caused by ice dams can result in the following:
- Rotting wood on roof decking, framing, sheathing, and rafters.
- Mold growth from water entering a building’s envelope and going unnoticed for an extended period.
- Icicle formation: Continuous snowmelt against the roof can cause the formation of icicles on the eaves of the building. These icicles eventually break off, often taking shingles or part of the gutter with them.
- Ineffective roof insulation: As water penetrates the roof, it can saturate the insulation, compressing it and dramatically reducing its effectiveness. Doing so can increase the possibility of heat loss through the roof and the likelihood of future ice dams forming.
Ice Dam Removal Methods
Ice dam removal is best left to the professionals and requires an ice dam steamer.
This commercial steaming equipment heats water and dispenses it under low pressure. Before starting, a roofing professional will remove excess snow from the roof with a shovel or rake, then use the ice dam steamer to steam channels through the ice to help it melt.
They will also chip away at parts of the dam as they go, working until the roof is completely clear of ice. Once your roofing contractors remove the ice dams, they will recommend options for preventing them from forming again.
How to Prevent Ice Dams
Poor roof ventilation is one of the leading causes of ice dams, so the best prevention method is ensuring your building has proper insulation and ventilation.
Improving insulation may include:
- Replacing old insulation or adding more insulation to the attic and ensuring the base of all roofing penetrations is adequately sealed.
- Extending all ventilation systems through the roof rather than allowing them to vent into the attic.
- Ensuring you have a proper vapor barrier between the roof decking and shingles.
Preventing Ice Dams with Heat Cables
Heat cables—also referred to as roof cables, heat tape, or heat wires—are another ice dam prevention method. Though proper insulation and ventilation are the best way to prevent ice dams, this option is sometimes not achievable due to the structural design of the building. In this case, your roofing professional will recommend heat cables.
How They Work
Heat cables are installed in a zig-zag pattern on the roof's lower edge and near the gutters. The wires heat up, preventing ice from forming and clearing gutters to drain melting snow. Heat cables can be costly to install and run but will significantly reduce ice dams when installed and used correctly.Finally, clearing snow from the roof using a roof rake may also reduce the likelihood of ice dam formation, as it will significantly minimize snowmelt. However, the removal of snow with a roof rake should be done by a professional for safety reasons.
Find Ice Dam Removal Near You
This winter, be proactive about preventing ice dams and always call in the pros for ice dam removal.
Contact All Elements, Inc. today to discuss how to reduce the possibility of ice dam formation, including ensuring your building has proper ventilation and insulation.