The winter of 2013-2014 has just begun, yet some are wishing it was over. Here in MN we just had some of the coldest temps in almost 20 years. As of today, 1/7/14, we have had 60+ hours of temps below zero (0). The forecast is finally calling for temps back in the 30s later this week. So what does that mean for ice dams?
Temps have been well below normal for almost the entire month of December 2013 and now into January 2014. Here in the Mpls/St. Paul Metro, we still have anywhere from 12-20″ of snow cover. Every roof in my neighborhood still has plenty of snow on it. Most gutters are thick with ice and I would guess that the downspouts are no help either. So what happens when the temps rise?
As soon as the temp outside rises above freezing, the snow on the roof tops will start to melt. Every roof is sloped so that water can drain off easily. But with ice dams on the eaves of the roof (the overhang), the snow that melts higher up has no where to go. Water runs down the roof and then hits a road block or ice dam. Gravity is responsible for moving water off the roof, but an ice dam will stop water in its tracks. Eventually water will travel up the roof and will try to get underneath the roofing shingles. Once that happens its only a matter of time before you start seeing water spots on your ceiling. So what can you do?
There are ways to help alleviate the problem of ice dams:
1. Check your attic for the proper amount of insulation. Ice dams can form when the attic is much warmer than the outside temp. Adding insulation will slow down the transfer of warm air from the inside the house up into the attic. When your attic is the same temp as outside, there is no direct heat to help melt the snow on the roof. In MN, building code suggests a minimum of an R-49 for attic insulation or anywhere from 16-20 inches of blown-in insulation. Spray foam is the absolute best form of insulation, but it comes with a hefty price tag.
2. Make sure you have proper ventilation in your attic. Proper attic ventilation needs both intake and outtake. Intake comes in the form of vented soffits/overhangs or gable vents and outtake comes in the form of turtle vents, power vents or whirlybirds/turbines. If heat is escaping the house and getting into the attic, then you must have good ventilation. The warm air must be vented out before it starts melting the snow on the roof which then causes ice dams.
3. Rake your roof after a snow storm. The overhangs/soffits (usually 2-3 feet up a roof) on the roof are usually unheated and this is the area where ice dams form. By removing the snow from these areas, ice dams will not have had a chance to form and thus any water will have a clear path off the roof.
4. Install heating cables. Once again, the best method of preventing ice dams is to prevent them from forming. By installing heating cables in the areas that have ice dams (soffit/overhang, valleys, front entries), all you have to do is turn them on when temps are above 30 degrees and watch the snow melt off.
5. Hire a professional to remove the ice dams. I would advise anyone to hire a professional for anything involving your roof at anytime. But adding water/ice/snow to a sloped roof can make things extremely dangerous. Hire a professional that has the expertise and equipment to get the job done while you are safe inside the home. Professionals will use either a hot water pressure washer or steamer to remove ice dams. Expect a price of anywhere from $150-$400 an hour for this service, with a minimum of 2-3 hrs. Other professionals will use hammers, chippers or shovels to remove ice dams. Expect anywhere from $25-$100 per hour per guy, with no minimum. Caution must be used when using hammers/chippers as to not damage the roofing shingles. There are projects out there that don’t always require a steamer/hot water pressure washer to remove snow/ice dams.
Limitless Exteriors and Remodeling is your full service contractor. We are here if you need a new roof, ice dam removal, spraying/painting a ceiling, attic insulation, and installing attic vents. We offer a free inspection and estimate for all customers. And remember that procrastination can only cost you more in the long run, so get us out now before those ice dams start leaking!