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Summer is best time for dealing with ice dams

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With the sudden onset of winter, homeowners can expect to have their roofs covered with snow throughout the long, bitter season. Along with the fresh blanket of snow comes the risk of ice dams. Better Business Bureau of Minnesota and North Dakota (BBB) offers advice to homeowners on how to deal with this perennial problem and protect their investment.

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Ice dams are ridges of ice that form at the edge of a roof, preventing melting snow from draining off the roof. Melting occurs when warm air from indoors escapes through the attic and melts snow on the roof. That water can then leak into homes, damaging walls, ceilings and insulation. According to the University of Minnesota Extension Agency, summer is the best time to prevent ice dams — by increasing the ceiling insulation to cut down on heat loss, making ceilings airtight and/or adding natural roof ventilation. Plugging leaks and adding insulation can reduce energy use in homes by 20 to 30 percent.

For homeowners who may soon be contending with ice dams — or those who are looking to avoid their formation — a snow rake can be used to remove excess snow from the roof. However, even if care is taken, roofing materials may be damaged in the process. It is not advisable to get up on your roof to remove snow. Many people are injured each year trying to deal with this problem on their own. Sometimes it's best to leave things to professionals.

Before hiring a company to deal with ice dams on your roof, here are some things you should do first:

• Check out the company's record with the BBB at bbb.org or by calling 1-800-646-6222.

• Make sure the company has insurance and their workers are covered under workers' compensation.

• Get estimates from multiple companies.

• Ask how much experience each company has working on roofs and ice dams, as well as what techniques they'll be using to remove the ice dams. Less intrusive techniques may reduce potential damage to your roofing.

• Watch out for someone who pulls up in a truck and tells you they can 'save you some money.' Your roof is an integral part of your home and it's not something you want to cut corners on. You may end up regretting it.

For more information on ice dams — how they're formed and how to avoid them — visit extension.umn.edu/distribution/housingandclothing/00056.html.

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