News flash. We just did a little digging and discovered that we are the only State Licensed ice dam removal remodeling contractor in Minnesota. We’ve been assuming that everyone plays by the same rules up until now. Click here to see for yourself. Search for our major competitors on the Department of Labor’s site. They are nowhere to be found. Wow. Not to be tattletales, but really?
The State of Minnesota requires that anyone who contracts with a homeowner to “construct or improve residential real estate” must be licensed as a residential building contractor or residential remodeler unless they do roofing alone, in which case they must be licensed as a roofer. I guess that is where the gray area exists. Is ice dam removal an improvement to a home? Not really and yet it seems reasonable to call someone who gets up on your roof to perform professional work a roofer and roofers must be licensed according to the Law. This ambiguity apparently creates enough moral wiggle room for some ice dam removal companies to operate without a license. Tisk tisk fellas.
Why should you care if your ice removal contractor is licensed? For starters, a contractor can not obtain a license without possessing a minimum amount of experience and must pass a residential construction and business management test. We are also subject to a criminal background check and must not have any outstanding contracting complaints on record. Licensed contractors are required to prove they are indeed insured for both Worker’s Comp and General Liability. As a homeowner you are protected by the Contractors Recovery Fund if something goes wrong. This fund compensates homeowners who have suffered out-of-pocket losses due to a licensed contractor’s fraudulent, deceptive or dishonest practices or failure of performance. This is not available to those who chose to work with unlicensed contractors.
The bottom line is that hiring a licensed contractor offers many additional protections to the home owner. Here is a helpful article on Angie’s List about the topic.
We directly handle over 100 insurance claims each year through our sister company, Kuhl Design+Build, including claims that relate to damage done by ice dams in the Minneapolis area. By ‘we’ I mean to say Pete Denboer, our in-house insurance specialist. Pete was an adjuster for over twenty years before he joined our company and trust me when I say we have all learned a great deal from him about the tricks insurance companies play to avoid coverage. But I digress…
I frequently get asked a few questions relating to ice dams and home owners insurance. Here are some of the more common questions and answers:
Question: Does homeowners insurance cover ice dam removal? Answer: Sometimes Yes, sometimes No. Okay, on rare occasion an insurance company will cover preventative ice dam removal but it is very unusual. This applies to ice dams that are not causing a roof leak. Typically that sort of
Insurance claim for ice dam, how to file an ice dam insurance claim
service is provided only by the high-end insurance companies like Chubb, Ace, Amica, AIG and Fireman’s Fund. Insurance companies do frequently cover the cost of removing ice dams that are causing damage (i.e., leaking). If you have questions about this distinction you can call your insurance agent. Be careful about how you characterize your ice dam situation, however. If you claim that only one part of your home is leaking that is the only part of the ice dam removal cost they will cover. An adjacent ice dam that you thought might not be the source could very well be the one that was causing the leak and your insurance company may hesitate to pay for the removal.
Question: Does insurance cover the damage done by ice dams? Answer: Yes. The caveat being that some insurance companies cover more than others. Ultimately, if you are working with a guy like Pete just about any insurance company will listen to reason. We often get called in after an ice dam insurance claim has been initiated by the homeowner who, not knowing any better, believes in the assessment made by the adjuster. I remind clients to remember who signs the adjuster’s paycheck. They have extensive training in minimizing loss severity while wrapping it in a facade of good customer service. Pete cuts through all of that pretty quickly and determines the scope of the damage and what it will take to fix it.
Question: Should I file a claim for my ice dam? Answer: It depends. Your deductible will be the primary variable in determining whether your should file an insurance claim for an ice dam. The lower the deductible, the more reasonable the idea of filing becomes. Of course the other key consideration is the extent of the damage. If the damage done by the ice dam is only $500 and your deductible is $400, it’s probably not worth the hassle. Having us provide an estimate for the cost of repairs is a good way of answering the question of whether or not to file.
Question: Will insurance pay for a new roof due to an ice dam? Answer: No. In fact, ice dams and the damage they cause are not a roof issue. You read that right. Ice dams are not an indication that a roof has problems. They are first and foremost an indication that heat is doing naughty things. Specifically, heat is warming the roof system enough to cause the snow to melt, run to the cold edge and refreeze.
Question: How to file an insurance claim relating to ice dams? Answer: Filing an insurance claim to help repair the damage done by ice dams is no different that any other home owners claim. Your first call should be to us to remove the ice dam. Your next call should be to your insurance company to file a claim. From there you will be assigned an adjuster who will visit your home shortly, usually within a few days. The adjuster will generate a quick estimate of the damages and costs and issue a check almost immediately to you. Most large insurance companies such as State Farm, Travelers, Farmers, Allstate and American Family use a common technique to simultaneously depress the size of claims while maintaining homeowner happiness. They get the adjuster out to your home very quickly and then write you a check for the damages immediately. Not knowing what the true extent of the cost of repairs is, you will most likely be impressed even though they have likely missed much of the hidden damage created by the ice dam and subsequent water intrusion into your home. I’ve seen this approach used hundreds of times. It’s a classic.
Question: What are common forms of damage done by ice dams to Minneapolis homes? Answer: The most common damage done by ice dams relates to the effects of water inside walls, ceilings and floors. Water will cause permanent buckling of hardwood floors. It will permanently damage insulation by diminishing its’ R-Value by as much as 50%. It will cause mold inside wall cavities. It can collapse ceilings. Really, I’ve seen just about everything. Our thermal imager is a favorite method used to find water where it otherwise is hidden.
I’ve been working on a new graphic to describe the basics for homeowners in Minneapolis to identify a problematic ice dam. It’s true that some ice dams cause no problems. The key consideration in determining whether or not an ice dam is a current problem is all about where you see ice. Study this drawing closely and you will see that any ice behind the facia is a bad sign. Ice through the soffit, down the exterior wall or through the window frame is very bad thing. Leaks caused by ice dams minneapolis
We received a call yesterday that was odd, even by our standards. The other strange part is that it was the second call in two days about the same issue. The homeowner noticed a bad smell coming from the shower and sink drains in her home in multiple locations. Moreover, there was a gurgling noise coming from the drains when the toilet flushed or when the other fixtures were used. The smell was so bad these poor people had to leave their homes. It was the smell of raw sewage, which ranks up there with the rankest of rank. Bummer indeed.
Plumbing vent plugged up with ice and snow
We sent one of our guys over there at 8pm in the dark to fix the issue because we felt so bad for these people. They had kids and the whole family was living at Grandpa’s house until the smell was figured out. Usually snow that falls on top of PVC plumbing vents just falls in and melts somewhere inside the system. In this case it piled up and formed a solid chunk of ice that completely blocked the pipe. We used a heat gun to quickly dislodge the ice and the problem was solved. We still can not figure out why this happened in the first place. Theoretically this could happen on every home in Minnesota but it doesn’t. We will be puzzling over this case for a while.
We came across an article giving a basic overview of ice dams on About.com. One particular part of the article rang out in familiar tones:
Rows of icicles along the roof of a house look very pretty but they are often a symptom of an ice dam. An ice dam is caused by snow melting from the roof of a house, but then freezing in the gutters creating a dam. (our emphasis)
It’s a common misconception that gutters are somehow a required ingredient to the ice dam recipe. It’s understandable why this falsehood perpetuates: a gutter is a basin that will catch running water, it’s typically a metal-material so in cold it conducts low temperatures, and gutters live on the edge of the overhang, where ice dams form. –But it’s not explicitly why they form.
Why do Ice Dams form then?
The temperature in your attic should be as close to the temperature outside as possible, but when heat escapes your house, snow on your roof can melt. Even when your attic houses a higher temperature then it should (you have some home performance issues), when that melted water on your roof gets to the overhang, it can refreeze, because there’s no heat source directly below it.
Looking at the illustration, you can see we aren’t even showing a gutter, and it’s definitely not uncommon for an ice dam to form in this situation.
Although gutters are not a requirement for an ice dam to form, and having no gutters is not an ice dam prevention solution, gutter ice can cause major damage, simply because of the way a gutter attaches to the overhang facia, and can collect a lot of weight in ice.
This past week, we were called out to a Fairview Hospital to resolve an ongoing roof leak in their EPDM roof or rubber roof. The roof leak, they suspected, was being caused by an massive ice build up on their flat roof. The area covered in ice was approximately 1200 square feet and ranged between 3-5″ thick. They had gotten another bid from acompetitor to remove the entire ice field for around $8,000.
Upon visiting the site, we quickly determined it was not necessary to remove the entire ice field in the area. Our experience as professional roofers and our use of thermal imaging quickly pointed us to a bad corner flashing detail as shown here. This area was completely covered by ice and was the main source of their leak.
The job was quite simple. We used our commercial steamers to cut through the ice and clear a channel from the area around the leak to the nearest roof drain. This allowed any melted snow/ice to run directly to the drain, instead of being dammed up and leaking into the hospital.
We also removed a the large section of ice that surrounded the leak area to allow for proper repair of the roofing and flashing that had failed. Fairview was so happy with our work that they ended up having us remove rest of the ice in that surrounding area. In the end, our cost for all of the work was half that of our competitor’s estimate. We pride ourselves in doing business under the philosophy that we’re trying to build lasting, honest relationships. Not just trying to earn the quick buck. Our guess is that we will be called for all ice removal needs by the Fairview Hospital network going forward. A lot of ice removal companies in the Minneapolis area are allergic to honesty. Perhaps Fairview has an ointment for that?
Minnesota and the Twin Cities are having another lighter snow season this year. We are on pace to be well below our average snowfall of about 50″ of snow per winter. When there’s less snow there generally are less ice dams to remove, though snowfall isn’t the only factor that contributes to ice dams forming. Elsewhere there has been more snow that is causing ice dam problems, and we’d thought we’d do a quick round-up of the current status of ice dam formations accross the counrty.
Wisconsin has gotten quite a bit more snow then we have, and ice dams are in the news lately.
More than two weeks after the blizzard that paralyzed southern Wisconsin, homeowners may be paying for its effects — broken, snow-heavy limbs and ceiling-spotting ice dams — far into the spring.
“When there is 10 inches of snow, it’s critical you remove snow from the bottom three to four feet of your roof”
We know from our extensive experience with ice dam removal and ice dam prevention that removing only the bottom 4 feet of snow from your roof doesn’t always solve the problem. In fact, assuming it has solved things can set you up for double the disappointment. Because Ice dams can still form, and even take on a more damaging form. See our case study on “Double Dams”.
To prevent an ice dam, don’t heat the roof, keep it cold. That way, the snow on the roof eventually dissipates without making large amounts of meltwater. The underside of the roof deck should not exceed 30 F. The best way to maintain low temperatures is by ensuring that there is adequate insulation and sealing gaps that let warm air pass into the attic from the house. The attic must also be ventilated, so that cold air is introduced into it and heated air escapes rapidly. Some remodeling contractors are under the impression that heat passing through the attic helps prevent ice dams, when just the opposite is true. Although excess heat moving from the attic through the roof rapidly melts snow, once the meltwater touches the cold eaves, it quickly freezes and forms an ice dam.
…Then the article falls short at really looking at solutions to identify root problems (other then proper insulation) and determining solutions. Instead it looks at situations where there’s a furnace in the attic, and then turns it’s focus to cosmetically hiding symptoms of ice dams. Before you go this route, you really should determine what the underlying problem is, and fix it.
Removing Ice Dams in Minnesota: We Serve Many Areas in the Minneapolis Metro
The Ice Dam company based out of Hopkins, Minnesota, about 5 miles west of Minneapolis. We've done gutter ice removal, roof ice removal and ice dam removal all over the Twin Cities, on new houses and old ones.
Some of the more frequent places we've done ice dam services are: