You may notice that the home shown below has some icicles (sarcasm intended). Obviously, when something like this occurs, it is quite likely that you have ice dams as well as a giant insurance claim from the subsequent water damage it has caused. The fact is, the vast majority of the ice dam steaming projects we complete are not on homes with monster icicles. When we arrive we often see quite modest icicles from the ground. The relationship between icicles and ice dams is not difficult to understand when you study the problem for awhile. This Case Study digs into the topic of icicles and ice dam life cycles.
Do icicles mean ice dams? The short answer is NO. While icicles on the edge of the roof are often a precursor to ice dams, they are not always present when ice dams begin to cause leaks through a roof system. Ice dams and icicles are part of the same accumulation but they are not the same thing by any means. This brings us to the normal life cycle of an ice dam.
The characteristics of ice dams change over time. The typical lifespan of an ice dam rangers from a few days to a few weeks. During that time it may get thicker or thinner, icicles may appear and disappear on its’ leading edge, and it may be almost completely hidden under snow or partially or completely exposed. For this reason, there is a big different between a young ice dam and an old ice dam in terms of the presence of icicles. Very young ice dams often have visible icicles on their leading edge. Over the following days most ice dams tend to grow more in depth than thickness, meaning the ice migrates higher up on the roof plane (refer to Case Study #06 for more information). Icicles on more mature ice dams tend to melt away from the affects of direct sunlight or warmer outdoor temperatures. However, while the telltale icicles may be missing, the mass of the ice dam is left behind, frequently hidden under a blanket of snow.
The photos above (A) and (B) demonstrate this phenomenon on two St. Louis Park homes. Virtually no traditional signs of an ice dam and yet you see water leaking down the exterior wall, through the siding and in the wall cavity itself. Bad news.
Case Study #16 examines the important topic of ice migration, from icicles to the interior of your home.
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.
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.
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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.
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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
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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.
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: