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They look pretty, but the costs of ice dams can really rack up

How to avoid costly, damaging ice dams
How to avoid costly, damaging ice dams 02:02

MINNEAPOLIS -- With this week's major dose of snow, many houses are showing the signs of ice dams. One company that clears ice dams says this is the busiest they've been in nearly a decade.

"I haven't seen it this bad in years, frankly. It's a bad season," Steve Kuhl said.

He says hundreds of ice dams have been forming on homes across Minnesota, with his team now booking appointments several days out.

"We're just trying to work our way around the city to deal with the problems that are the worst problems, which is people that have the water coming in their homes," Kuhl said.

An ice dam forms as warm air inside your home rises, melting a tiny bit of the snow on top of your roof, allowing it to refreeze into an ice dam.

"When it doesn't have a place to go, it backs up under the shingles, and that's when it starts to leak in the home," Kuhl said.

The dams can be hard to see, but one area to look at on your roof is the soffit.

"The soffit is the eave, it's the overhang. Do we see any ice whatsoever coming through that soffit or, God forbid, down the exterior wall of the home? That is a ice dam 911, and that means you need to get that thing off of the roof immediately cause it means water is inside the wall cavity," Kuhl said.

That water can cause permanent damage inside the walls, and even more damage if it starts leaking out. Kuhl says homeowners can pay his company to come out multiple times, or they could invest once in a tool to prevent the dams from forming in the first place.

"Most ice dam projects typically are going to fall between $750 and $2,000 on average around the city. To install a commercial, self regulating heat cable system is often $1,000 to $2,000. So it's about the same cost," Kuhl said.

A couple thousand bucks sounds expensive, but fixing water damage could run you several times that.

One more note: Kuhl says homes built before 1960 are more likely to have issues with ice dams than newer homes.

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