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Got Ice Dams? Here’s How to Protect Your Sunriver Home

Got Ice Dams? Here’s How to Protect Your Sunriver Home

Image via Cool Flat Roof

Old Man Winter is sure making himself comfortable in our neck of the woods, isn’t he? Unfortunately, all of this harsh, cold, icey, run-to-the-house-from-the-car weather is not only nasty for us, but our homes aren’t exactly enjoying it either. And, unique conditions can arise that put your property right in harm’s way.

Ice dams pose a particularly chilling threat this time of year. With the right knowledge and proactive steps, however, you can prevent avoidable damage and expense.

What Are Ice Dams, and Why Are They Such a Big Deal?

Image via Home Partners

Ice dams are ridges of ice that grow around the edges of your roof line.

Is it really a big deal, though? Won’t they just melt when we get closer to spring?

Here’s the problem: ice dams prevent your roof from shedding water into your gutter system, which would then whisk it harmlessly away from your home. The dam instead traps water behind it, and this causes a host of issues. As things warm and melt, your home is actually at its most vulnerable position. After all, turning your roof into a pond isn’t exactly considered home improvement.

What’s the potential risk?

  • Trapped water needs to go somewhere! It often finds its way into your home, compromising and damaging your roof system on its way through
  • Interior water damage
  • Soaked and ruined insulation
  • The burden of trapped ice and snow can break your gutter system

How Can You Prevent Ice Dams?

The best way is to stop them before they even start. One popular option is to install heat trace cables around your roof line. Acting much like a radiant home heating system, these cables warm the surface, providing consistent paths for water to pass from your roof, down through your gutter system.

Not all systems are created equal, however. It’s essential to go into the buying process with your eyes wide open, and to watch for a few key features:

  1. High-Quality Design - The system we recommend has a 16-gauge tinned-copper wire core and a second layer of braided tinned-copper mesh to effectively distribute heat
  2. Durability - Look for an outer jacket made of UV-resistant, rugged polyolefin
  3. Warranty - box store options will net your about 6mos coverage, our offering is 5 years
  4. Self-Regulating Temperature - Systems that are simply all “on” or all “off” are not nearly as efficient and will drive up your electricity bill

How Can You Remove Ice Dams? Behold the Power of Steam!

Let’s say it’s too late for heat trace cables (you can do that for next winter). How can you get rid of the ice dams you already have?

Too many homeowners are tempted to climb up onto their roof and chisel away at the dams. There are a lot of issues with this plan, not the least of which is your own safety. These are after all ice dams, and combining chopping motions, altitude, and ice is just not a healthy proposition from any angle.

You also are very likely to damage your home, including your gutter system that is already in a strained, tenuous situation. A gentler approach is needed.

We recommend paying a professional to remove your ice dams with a steamer. The intense heat (ours operates at 290℉) will reduce your ice to its liquid state in no time, allowing it to drain off your roof as it should. No pressure is applied to your gutters or roof system either, and no harsh ice melting chemicals are involved so your roof is safe from harm. It’s just good ole fashioned science.

How Much Does It Cost to Remove Ice Dams with a Steamer?

There are storm-chasing companies out there that capitalize on extreme weather, providing needed services at high prices. Old Man Winter probably gets a cut, but we can’t prove it.  Another important thing to note, ice dam removal is classified as debris removal so you do not need a license in order to operate. Most out of towners are not licensed in Oregon and may not have workmans’ comp coverage on their employees, but legally they don’t need to.  

Before you hire a professional, do your research and see what the smaller, local companies are offering. You likely will find a lower price tag, and you also get the benefit of working with a consistent, reputable service provider. One last tip to consider, this is high risk work, take the risk out of your end by hiring a licensed contractor who carries the proper workmans’ comp insurance.

According to our research, most larger providers of steam power are charging $500-$800 per hour for ice dam removal, with projects taking anywhere from 2-10 hours. Again, you can likely find a better deal by talking with smaller, local operations.

The biggest takeaway here is the power and value of being informed and proactive. Your home will thank you, and so will your wallet! If you have questions about ice removal, feel free to contact us!

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