What to know about ice dams this winter

Dec 16, 2021
House with an ice dam

Ice dams are one of many challenges Minnesota homeowners must deal with every winter. If you have never had an ice dam on your own home, you are lucky. However, you shouldn’t wait until you find one on your roof to understand what they are and what you can do to prevent them.

What are ice dams?

Ice dams occur when it starts to snow and the temperature drops, but there is warm and moist air trapped inside your attic. When this happens, the heat in the attic will melt the snow on your roof, and if that melted snow hits a cold spot, it will refreeze and create a ridge of ice on the edge of your roof. Once the ice dam has formed, it will trap other melted snow and cause a buildup of ice that can damage your home.

Why should you care about ice dams?

When an ice dam forms on your roof, it usually means there is a problem inside your house, not outside. Therefore, the ice dam likely isn’t your only problem; you probably also have poor insulation or poor air sealing in your attic. In addition to the pre-existing problems that led to its formation, the ice dam itself will create even more problems inside your home. Ice dams trap the moisture that is trying to drain off your roof, so that trapped moisture doesn’t have anywhere to go other than inside your home. This can lead to mold and mildew growth inside your attic and cause water damage in your walls and ceilings.

How to avoid ice dams?

If you want to avoid ice dams at all costs, the best solution is to ensure that your attic is properly air sealed and insulated. Ice dams form due to heat escaping from your house. If your home is properly air sealed and insulated, it will prevent the warm air from leaking out. Not only will insulating your home prevent future ice dams, it will also help keep your house warmer in the winter by preventing air leaks and reduce heating and cooling costs.

Air sealing and insulating your attic is an investment, but the money is well spent when you consider the more costly damage an ice dam can cause. If you aren’t sure if your home is equipped for the winter, you can start with a home audit through the Home Energy Squad Program.  A Home Energy Squad visit will help you understand what energy upgrades you should make and connect you to the right resources to make these upgrades.   

Related Links

Home Energy Squad

Home Energy Hub

How to improve and fix ice dams (Home Energy Hub)