Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Dam Ice!

Being a homeowner, a busy dad, and a busy business owner trying to get loose ends tied up before the Holidays, I have unfortunately missed some important winter maintenance that is easy to neglect -- Ice Dams!

Today is December 21, the Winter Solstice, and four days before the Christmas Holiday.  I can't seem to recall having over 20" of snow on the ground in recent history, by this time of year.  I know that some of the outlying areas of the Twin Cities, especially to the northwest, west, and south of us, probably have more like 24-30" on the ground already.  This is going to be a year of BIG snow.  So, please, don't forget to go out and take a few extra critical steps to help keep your home, and landscape, in good shape.

1. For those who have young evergreen trees, ornamental evergreen shrubs, upright evergreens, or evergreens in hedges (namely juniper, arborvitae, yew, pine, fir, spruce):  Please remember to do your due diligence and clear away the heavy snow that has collected on the foliage and branches!  Especially if the evergreens are starting to bow or bend under the weight of the heavy snow.  The plants might be resilient, but these heavy snow loads that are burdening these evergreens can easily cause permanent disfigurement or damage to them, and cause the look of your landscape to suffer.
Here's the idea, not so upright anymore, and now are ugly.
Those nice accent hedges won't be so "hedgy" anymore.

2. For that snow on your rooftops: Please remember to use a Roof Rake where the drifts and heavy snow loads have collected!   Try to remove at least the lower 6-10' of snow from the outer edge of your roof and up, or as needed upward past where the roof extends beyond the house along the rafter tail above the soffit.  Try to keep the gutters and downspouts open as much as possible to allow water to flow.  But that area melts the most slowly and can very easily cause ice dams to form!  If your home is prone to ice dams, consider using a heating element/cable/tape system to allow more rapid snow melt to occur along these areas.

Roof that is a good candidate for roof rake.

Roof raking in action.

Completed roof raking job, as long as the snow load on the rest of the house is not too heavy.

3.  For those dam ice dams: Please do what you can to remove them!  Be concerned, especially before the daytime temperatures approach the upper 20's, and snow melt begins to occur during the day and then freeze up again in the evenings.  In just a matter of one day of steadily melting snow, ice dams can become enormous and begin to cause the water to retreat back under your roof shingles and through your roof, into your attic, and wherever it decides to make it's way into your home from there.  Unwanted water is the home's worst enemy!

Dam Ice!  Mine looks pretty similar to this right now.  It is flirting with disaster!

If you are in the same boat as me right now and ice dams have formed in a big way over the short span of a couple of days (mine are 10" thick along the back of my house!) here is what I suggest:

First:  Roof Rake what you can from the area above the rafter tails/soffits and clear a path for the snow melt.

Second:  Either use a de-icing agent such as eco-friendly biodegradable antifreeze cut with tap water and spray along the edges and concentrate it into certain areas, or apply de-icing salts and concentrate them into abrupt ruts by filling sections of pantyhouse with deicing salts to create the ruts, or apply a heating cable along to iced dam in a strategic manner for short term rapid melting (it might fall off the roof as it melts), or chisel notches into the ice dam into sharp grooves that allow the snowmelt water to run off the roof... or maybe do a combination of the above.

Myself, I have used a a mallet and chisel to break sections and ruts into the ice, sprinlked on a light coating of de-icing salt, and then filled pantyhose tubes of deicing salts and laid them vertically along the ruts to make them more pronounced and concentrated areas for the snowmelt to run.  These tubes should extend up the roof past the area where the ice forms, beyond where the rafter tail meets meets the house and the snow melts more rapidly.  I found a successful remedy in doing this and checking on it a few times, maybe hammering away with my chisel a few additional times, as the snow melted and froze over the span of several days.  But it was a pain.  (*Disclaimer: this is just my personal experience, but it worked for me.)

THIRD:  CONSIDER HIRING A PROFESSIONAL SERVICE FOR ICE DAM REMOVAL.  ***Please call Dave or Jack at Landscape Design Studios, and we can get you set up with some professional assistance. *** 

As the temperatures fluctuate, please monitor the condition of your roof inside and out.  Check on the outside, and check on the inside of the attic and look for evidence of moisture anywhere that it is not supposed to be.

For more information, please refer to this helpful Univeristy of Minnesota Extension Publication:

More to come... best of luck!

Merry Christmas!


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