What You Can Do Now to Prevent Ice Dams - KMSP-TV

What You Can Do Now to Prevent Ice Dams

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Last year was bad year for ice dams in Minnesota, leaving homeowners with thousands in repairs. While it’s too early to predict the severity of ice dams this year, you don’t need to wait to protect your home.

"With winter just around the corner, make no mistake: ice dam season is approaching," said Minnesota Department of Commerce commissioner Mike Rothman. "Minnesota homeowners should act now to make the necessary preparations to avoid thousands of dollars in possible damage to their homes. By sealing air attic leaks, consumers can not only prevent ice dams, but also save energy and save money on heating bills all winter."

Last winter Minnesotans were hit with a record number of ice dam problems, including damaged shingles, sodden insulation and ruined walls and ceilings. Although sometimes thought of as a problem with roofing or attic ventilation, ice dams are actually caused by warm, moist air in your attic, combined with snow on the roof and the right weather conditions.

Ice dams are formed when heat leaks into the attic and melts the underside of the snow on the roof. The melted snow then flows down the roof surface until it reaches a cold spot, where it forms a frozen dam, allowing more snowmelt and ice to pile up. The ice buildup can back up under the shingles, damaging them and allowing water to leak to the ceilings and walls below.

ANIMATION: How an Ice Dam Forms

For the first few days of above freezing temperatures, snow acts like a big sponge just soaking up all the water. If you've got ice dams, that water has no place to go and it will back up under your shingles.

A first step in solving ice dams and to making your home more energy efficient) is to have an advanced energy audit. The audit will use equipment like infrared cameras to find air leak locations. A specialist will suggest action steps to prevent ice dams.

To avoid and eliminate most ice dams, attic air leaks around wires, plumbing vents, light fixtures, or chimneys must be sealed with caulking or spray foam, and attic insulation should be installed to a minimum R-50.

Advanced energy audits are provided by:
 

  • Your gas or electric utility
  • Members of the Minnesota Building Performance Association ( www.mbpa.us)
  • Nonprofit community energy groups


Once the problem areas are diagnosed, hire a licensed contractor to do the work needed.

If you notice ice dams on your roof, try to get all the snow off your roof with a roof rake, or call someone to have it done. If you do, make sure the company has insurance.

PHOTO: Man Takes Soowblower to Roof (Don't Do That)
 

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