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How To Keep Your House Free Of Ice Dams

HOPKINS, Minn. (WCCO) -- Having a little snow on your roof is not much of a problem -- until it melts and freezes, causing an ice dam.

Removing the roof wreckers could require workers to climb up on the house.

"It's not work for the faint of heart," said Steve Kuhl, owner of The Ice Dam Company.

Ice dams happen when poor insulation under a roof causes snow to melt, trickle down the roof towards the gutter, freeze up and build up into a dam. Once that happens, excess water can go back into a home, causing damage.

Kuhl's crews have been out this winter removing the dams. The process includes using low pressure steamers to melt the built-up ice.

"Right now, prices in the [Twin] Cities go from $285 an hour to up to $500 an hour for a one- or two-man crew, depending on who you talk to," Kuhl said. "My line always is if you never want to see my guys out here again, let's talk about what we can do to make that happen."

Kuhl said the first step is simple: rake the snow off your roof and do not only do it halfway up.

Ice Dams
(credit: CBS)

"The snow that is the essential source of the ice dam to begin with is [near the roof's peak]," he said. "That is still creating melt water."

He says that will cause what he calls a "double dam," in which a second ice dam forms in the middle of the roof. He said the process of removing it is more difficult and costly.

If raking sounds like too much work, he suggests getting heating cables installed, specifically the kind that regulate their own temperature based on the temperature outside. You can do it yourself or call in the professionals.

"You plug it in when you think you're going to need it through the season, then you unplug it when the season is done," he said.

One of his most recent customers who needed ice dams removed requested for the cables to be installed. But not every prevention method even involves going outside.

"If you are leaving the house, don't keep the house at 78 degrees all day if you don't need it. You know, crank it down," Kuhl said. "It's less heat in the attic."

Another tip that does not involve much hard labor involves the lightbulbs in your home. Kuhl says if a homeowner has recessed lighting in ceilings that reach the roof and uses halogen or incandescent bulbs, they will give off heat. That could lead to melting and ice dams. He suggests replacing them with LED bulbs.

"You're going to spend $6 a bulb, but it's going to last until your kids are out of college, and it's not going kick heat into the attic spaces," he said.

Here are more tips on how to prevent ice dams via The Ice Dam Company's website.

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