March 11th, 2015
As the oldest ice removal company in the USA, we get asked to do some pretty bizarre stuff. We have done our share of strange ice removal projects but one that keeps popping up is removing ice from around cooling towers. What is a cooling tower? I don’t know exactly but I suspect it has something to do with providing chilled air or water to industrial equipment inside buildings. We have removed ice from around industrial equipment, like cooling towers, for many years. The tricky part is that they are normally fed by high voltage and natural gas so you don’t want an inexperienced person attempting this work. We slice away ice from commercial and industrial equipment using the same equipment we use for removing ice dams from homes. That is, we use our modified commercial steamers. Our guys were under such pressure earlier this winter that they worked from 2pm around the clock to 7:30am. The operation of an entire plant depended on the cooling tower being operational. We used two crews to complete the task. It wasn’t a cheap job but the cost of one lost day of production was far worse. Plus, according to the commercial HVAC contractor consulting on the project, there was a good chance that the cooling tower could be seriously damaged if the ice was allowed to remain in place any longer than it was.
Industrial commercial ice removal contractor
Sometimes a crane is required to reach our work.
Commercial roof ice removal using steam
March 3rd, 2015
We are often asked “How long will it take to remove my ice dams?”. While it may surprise you to hear this, after having removed thousands of ice dams, we still can’t give a definitive answer. Sure, most projects typically take somewhere between 2-6 hours, but that’s a big range. We ask that people send photos of their ice dams so that we can see what is happening. This helps us estimate costs to some degree. Specifically, these photos tell us approximately how long the ice dams are along an eave area. That is great. It’s also important to see what the site conditions are like. Is the job 8 feet or 28 feet off the ground? Will the chunks of ice we are removing fall harmlessly to the ground or is the ice dam located about a glass solarium that will need extensive protection? But even when we are armed with good photos there are still a number of variables that factor into the cost of removing an ice dam, the most important of which is what we call ‘depth’. The depth of an ice dam is the distance it travels up the roof. Study the diagram below. Notice call-out (A). This distance is in fact the most important factor in determining how long it takes to remove an ice dam (aside from it’s length, of course). Slicing through a 12″ thick ice dam is no big deal if it’s only 12″ deep. If it’s 24″ deep, that’s a totally different story.
The depth, or how far up the roof the ice has grown, is in fact the thing that drives the project time frame more than the thickness. The challenge is that if the ice dam is covered with snow, we can’t see how far up the roof the ice has grown. Only after we shovel the snow back can we get an accurate gauge as to how long the project will take.
Other variables that affect the duration of an ice dam removal job include: Height of work, site access and outdoor temperatures. Most people don’t know this but ice gets significantly harder to cut when it’s really cold out. The character of the ice actually changes and it takes longer to cut, even with the monster commercial steamers we use.
How long it takes to remove an ice dam.
February 24th, 2015
Where to buy ice dam steamer
I have been asked many, many times where we buy our equipment. A lot of people in my position would be nervous to reveal our key vendors, after all, providing such info might help our competition, right? I’m not hung up on helping others get into the business of ice dam removal. There is usually enough business to go around and, quite frankly, buying a steamer is just the first step. That said, it’s an important first step and to all who have asked me over the years, here is my answer. I buy our ice dam steaming equipment at American Pressure in Robinsdale, Minnesota. Click here to visit their site.
Here is another piece of advice I offer all who call. Buy more than one unit. It’s true, you will spend $4000-$5000 for a quality unit. But if there is an ice dam season, such an investment will pay for itself in a matter of days. Equipment redundancy is essential when you have clients calling because things can and do go wrong with ice dam steaming equipment. More often than not it is related to user error. For example, if even a single drop of water or small spec of ice gets into the fuel tank while refueling during a job, the machine will often shut down. User error. Or, if the ice dam steamer is using a water supply that is high in mineral content, those minerals will build up in the steel burner coil and in the high temp hoses, eventually shutting the machine down. Depending on the water supply and the number of hours the machine is running, it can take as little as a few days for this process to occur. The fix is simple (use powdered acid to ‘descale’ the machine and hoses). Nevertheless, it takes the machine out of circulation and when things are busy, it’s a huge bummer to not be steaming ice. I therefore always suggest buying more than one unit. I have yet to here of someone who regrets that decision.
I get calls from people all over the country and from Canada asking where to buy ice dam steaming equipment. American Pressure is my answer. Not only because they know their stuff but because they are truly good people at heart.
January 23rd, 2015
Heat cable reviews, Ice Dam Heat Cable Reviews
Heat cables manufactured by Easy Heat, Frost King and Wrap On are not worth buying. I can’t say it more plainly than that. These cables are typically sold at box stores like Home Depot and Lowes and they should be ashamed to sell them. Why? For starters, they are only warrantied for 1 or 2 years for a very good reason. That is as long as they last (I’ve attached warranties from Wrap On and Frost King below). Homeowners buy bad cables because they are cheap and because they believe what the packaging says. Sadly, we replace thousands of feet of this junk every year. We install more heat cables that any firm in the country and fully 20% of the work we do is the replacement failed ice dam heat cable systems manufactured by Easy Heat, Frost King and Wrap On.
Beyond the short lifespan, heat cables by Easy Heat, Frost King and Wrap On are energy hogs. While they only typically draw 5 watts a foot (as opposed to 8 to 13 watts per foot for the heavy duty heat cable sold by The Ice Dam Company) they run at 100% while they are plugged in, regardless of the surrounding temperatures. They are what’s called ‘constant wattage’ cable. Our ice dam heat cables are self-regulating. They sense the outdoor temperatures and draw only the electricity they need to do the job. The net result is that cheap cables made by Easy Heat, Frost King and Wrap On chew through electricity. So, somewhat paradoxically, our heavy duty ice dam heat tape runs at over twice the peak wattage of the cheap stuff, it uses far less electricity over a season.
Which heat cables are best for ice dams?
Heat tape made by Frost King, Easy Heat and Wrap On is worthless
Heat tape made by Frost King, Easy Heat and Wrap On is worthless
January 22nd, 2015
Heat tape for ice dams, Electric gutter heating cables for sale
We get asked a lot about the difference between electric heat tape and electric heat cable. The answer is that there is no difference. Both descriptions apply to apply to a category of ice dam prevention cable that is run, usually in a zig-zag pattern, along the affected eaves of a home/building (See install info here). The height, or distance that pattern runs up the roof is determined by the depth of the over hang on the home. The deeper the overhang, the higher the pattern needs to travel.
Not all heat tape is created equal. Think about the difference between a Pinto and an Audi. Sure, they are both cars, but they are pretty different in terms of quality. Honesty alert: Some heat tape is absolute crap. It’s the stuff sold at big box stores under the names Easy Heat and Frost King, to name a few. It costs about 1/3 that of the heavy duty material we install every day. Guess what the difference in labor cost is to install crappy heat cable versus quality heat cable? Zero. It costs zero dollars more to install long-lasting, efficient ice dam heat tape than it does the cheap stuff. We replace thousands of feet of lousy ice dam heat tape every year in the Twin Cities market. Time and time again we see the cheap cables have failed because they have either burned out or have deteriorated due to normal UV exposure.
The moral of the story is please, don’t buy cheap ice dam prevention cable. It won’t last long and it costs far more to operate than quality cable.
December 31st, 2014
In 2011, Ice Dam Company owner Steve Kuhl wrote a nationally published article about ice dams for the Journal of Light Construction. One of the topics that receieved the most attention was the notion that gutters have nothing to do with ice dams. Here is a deeper look at that assertion.
There is a great deal of confusion and misinformation about the relationship between gutters and ice dams. Many people are under the misconception that gutters cause ice dams or that gutters filled with ice can cause water to back up into homes. Neither is true. Nor do gutters amplify the negative effects of ice dams in terms of the likelihood or severity of leaks into a home.
We know that ice dams occure when:
1. Escaped heat from the inside of the home warms the roof deck.
2. This melts the snow on the roof, resulting in water that runs down to a cold, unheated area of the eave.
3. That water freezes, forming ice. After many cycles that ice piles up to form an ice dam.
Study the illustrations below. These are identical eave designs, one with gutters, the other without. The Area B in the diagrams below is referred to as the ‘cold edge’ of the eave because heat from the interior of the home doesn’t travel far enough to raise the temperatures above 32 degrees in this zone. Fact one: whether or not a home has gutters, the cold edge of the eave will still exist and this is where ice dams form. Fact two: leaks from ice dams occur in Area A, at the top edge of the ice dam where water–with nowhere else to go–is forced up under the roofing material and into the home. Another way to look at it is this. If the home in Figure 2 had bad leaks inside, those leaks would not be eliminated whatsoever if we took a chainsaw and cut off the gutters along the red dashed line (C). Gutters are irrelevant in the formation of ice dams. Gutters being full of debris is likewise irrelevant in terms of ice dams. End of story.
Ice in gutters fact vs fiction – Steve Kuhl, Ice Dam Expert explains
None of this is to suggest that ice in gutters is a harmless situation. We have seen many gutters damaged or destroyed by ice dams and that is a problem most homeowners would like to avoid. The point here is that all else held equal, if a home is likely to get ice dams the addition or deletion of gutters will be of no consequence to the formation or severity of said ice dams.
Ice dams can cause all sorts of damage. Below is a client of ours who had significant damage to her gutters and aluminum soffits from ice dams. Kuhl’s Contracting, our sister company, is one of the best companies in Minneapolis when it comes to repairing ice dam damage and ice dam prevention. Kuhl’s Contracting also installs more ice dam heat cables than any company in Minnesota. Of course, heat cables and heat tape are not a permanent solution for ice dams in Minnesota. Click here to see a Kuhl Case Study that examines one such approach to ice dam prevention using enhanced home insulation in Minneapolis. This particular ice dam prevention project was in Edina.
Ice dam damage to home repaired by kuhls contracting
December 22nd, 2014
Attic insulation contractor addresses ice dams with new insulation in Edina
Using the words ‘ice dam prevention’ in Minneapolis is a dangerous gamble. It’s true that with certain efforts one can greatly reduce the chances of getting ice dams, it is almost impossible to prevent them altogether. For example, we can do a top quality insulation and ventilation retrofit on a Minneapolis attic only to be thwarted by the fact that the homeowner likes to keep the attic at 90 degrees in the winter. That is a formula for ice dam disaster in Minnesota. There are a number of methods to employ in preventing ice dams (or reducing their severity, in some cases). Here are links to two such approaches used by our sister company, Kuhl’s Contracting, a nationally recognized ice dam prevention company.
Approach to ice dam prevention in Minneapolis #1
Approach to ice dam prevention in Minneapolis #2
Homeowners looking to fix or at least minimize the risk of ice dams in Minnesota are wise to look at the key contributing factors that spawn ice dams. Those are, the weather, insulation, ventilation, air leaks, personal lifestyle and home architecture. We are frequently successful in reducing and/or eliminating ice dams through the use of high performance spray foam insulation systems in combination with enhanced attic ventilation.
Here is another helpful link on the topic of home insulation and ice dam prevention in Minneapolis
December 18th, 2014
construction site ice removal, commercial ice removal, ice accumulation removal minneapolis, ice dam company
We have been called by property managers and builders to remove ice from a number of odd areas in Minneapolis over the years. Heck, we have even removed ice during the summer around cooling condensers at a chemical plant. While we frequently use our high-end steamers for the removal of ice, sometimes they are simply not appropriate. Such was the case on a recent job at a hotel under construction. A thin layer of ice had built up on the surface of a concrete floor that was perfectly flat…and huge. Using steamers in this application would have possibly resulted in making the problem worse by adding more water to the situation. While our steamers don’t generate much water, any time you melt ice, water is the result. Hence, my concern was that we would create a big mess. I suggested that we go old-school on this challenge. I sent three of my guys out there to hack and chip the ice with shiny, new scrapers. The resulting ice chips were simply blown and swept off the concrete, allowing the project carpenters to follow closely behind and lay out the wall framing without concern. It’s a low tech solution but sometimes that is what’s best.
Ice removal minneapolis commercial ice removal from flat surface
January 5th, 2014
Minnesota’s only licensed ice removal contractor
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.
The only licensed ice removal contractor? Really?
December 22nd, 2013
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.