Ice dams are a common occurrence in Minnesota. They form most frequently when we have frequent, heavy snow falls combined with temperature swings between 0 and 20 degrees Fahrenheit. Ice dams can form very quickly. One or two days of the right conditions is enough time for an ice damn to form, and water to start leaking into the house. Ice dams can be avoided by clearing the snow from the edge of the roof with a snow rake. There are also electronic heaters that can be installed to melt ice dams before they grow and become a problem. Most homes are not equipped with the heaters, and many people do not know about the potential dangers ice dams pose until they have water coming into their house as a result of one.
For an ice dam to form we need to get a few inches of snow on the roof. Poor insulation and/or warmer temperatures will cause the majority of the roof to become warmer than 32 degrees and start melting the snow and turning it into water. This water will run down the roof and into the gutters. However, the edge of the roof above the soffits is colder than 32 degrees. The gutters are usually colder than 32 degrees too. This is where the water becomes frozen, forming a dam along the edge of the roof and completely filling the gutters and downspouts with ice.
If you see an ice dam forming on your house it is imperative that you deal with it quickly. Monitor the interior of the building in the immediate vicinity of the ice dam. If you have water coming in call an ice dam removal expert, water damage mitigation contractor, and your insurance company. If there isn't any water coming in have a professional remove the snow from the roof above the dam. This will cut off the water supply to the ice dam, and it may melt away without any major problems. If water starts to enter the house the ice dam needs to be removed as soon as possible to mitigate the damage to the structure. Call an ice dam removal expert to remove the ice dam using low pressure steam.