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Ice Dams, Icicles, and Snow: Tips for Preventing and Removing Ice Dams

Anyone who has lived in a snowy climate has seen ice dams. Ice dams are thick bands of ice that form along the eaves of houses, and they prevent melted ice and snow from draining properly which can lead to thousands of dollars in structural damage.   The damage that results from ice dams includes water damage such as stained ceilings, peeling paint, and damaged plaster as well as structural damage from the weight of the ice including dislodged roof shingles, sagging gutters, and cave-ins.

Poor insulation in the attic is often the cause of ice dams as warm air from the heat of your home melts the snow which trickles down to the colder edge of the roof above the eaves and freezes.  The key to preventing ice dams is to make sure your attic is properly insulated, but there are also several other preventative actions you can take.  The following actions are effective for preventing ice dams in your home:

  • Check your attic to ensure that it is properly insulated and ventilated. Proper insulation will prevent the heat in your home from heating up the attic and good ventilation will allow the warm air to escape. If you need more insulation or increased ventilation in your attic, it is best to call a professional to have this done.
  • Inspect your attic for leaks that could allow warm air in from the rest of your home. Make sure to plug any leaks and seal the door or entry way to your attic.
  • Remove the snow from your roof using a roof rake which can be bought at a hardware store. Rake the snow in the direction of the slope of your roof.

Tips for Preventing and Removing Ice Dams

Removing Ice Dams

If an ice dam has already formed on your roof, you must take swift action to prevent significant damage to your home.  The following tips will help you remove ice dams:

  • Chipping the ice: If an ice dam has formed over your roof, you can create a channel in the ice for melted snow to drain through the gutters which will prevent the ice dam from growing any larger. This can be done best with an ice pick or awl.  Start at the gutter and chip away at the ice, working your way toward the center of the roof.  Be careful not to damage your roof or gutters.
  • Chemical deicers: Chemical deicers are available at hardware stores in crystal or tablet form and they contain materials such as ammonium sulfate and urea fertilizer that melt ice and snow. Make sure to follow the directions when using deicer products and apply them to the ice in your gutters.  The melted ice along with the deicers will drain from your gutters.
  • Warm water: Warm water provides an immediate solution but should be used with one of the other methods listed here to prevent it from freezing. Put warm or hot water into a container such as a canister or spray bottle and spray it over the ice to help it melt.  If the temperature in your area remains low, you may have to take measures to prevent the warm water from eventually freezing.

Make sure to watch out for ice dams in your home if your area has had significant snowfall and if an ice dam does form, use these tips to try to remove it.  Ice dams will eventually lead to severe structural damage or water damage in your home which is a huge hassle to fix in the middle of winter.  Taking actions to prevent ice dams is the best way to avoid significant damage.  If your home in the Minneapolis area does sustain significant damage caused by an ice dam, make sure to contact the professionals of SVMPS for restoration services.

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