Ice dams on Chippewa Valley homes and businesses clog roofs, indicate heat loss

Large icicles indicate ice dams and major heat loss


©2019 Taylor Pomasl

A typical ice dam removal job can cost from $600 to $1,000.

After a slow start to winter, the weather seemed to hit all at once, covering buildings and businesses in Eau Claire with snow and icicles.

“I’m always cold now,” Claire Mugge, a four-year Eau Claire resident, said. “I walk inside, I’m cold. I walk outside, I’m cold. I just can’t get this shiver out of me.”

The pretty icicles on the side of homes may be trying to say something. In 2015, the North American Insulation Manufacturers Association indicated over 90 percent of homes were under-insulated in the United States.

“What is that pretty icicle on the side of your house trying to tell you? It’s probably telling you that you have significant heat loss,” Becki Rockow, co-owner of Rock and Tait in Chippewa Falls, said.

Ice dams are ice buildup that form at the edge of roofs. When heat moves into your attic space and heats your roof, it causes the snow on top to melt. Then the melted water can run to the edge of roofs and freeze. When this happens over and over again, ice dams are created. Melting snow will then pool behind the ice.

“The water can go up in your shingles,” Rockow said. “It travels down your walls. It ruins your insulation. It ruins your drywall. It can just wreak havoc on your home.”

Rockow said she’s taken more than 150 calls a day from people in the Chippewa Valley trying to get the snow and ice removed from their homes. Right now, the business is booked through spring.

“We’re working seven days a week, trying to help as many people as we can, and we’re still not able to help everyone who calls or contacts us,” Rockow said.

Rock and Tait typically has six to eight crews running that can clear three houses or businesses a day. The business uses steam to cut the dams into chucks that can be removed from roofs.

“The safest way is to scrap the snow off the roof, then use a steamer. It heats up water to over 150 degrees, and it cuts the ice like a plasma cutter,” Tyler Brummond, the field supervisor with Rock and Tait, said.

Rockow recommends leaving professionals to remove snow and ice to once a dam is formed.

“You don’t want to be banging on your shingles or your gutters with a hammer or shovels,” Rockow said. “Things like that, because that ice is really heavy and you need to have quite a bit of force behind that.”

“If you don’t have the proper safety equipment — ropes and harness — it could get dangerous,” Brummond said.

Brummond says the best way to prevent ice dams is by removing snow from roofs and gutters right after a snowfall. Otherwise, the dams are difficult to get rid of.

“If we get ten inches or more of snow, be proactive,” Rockow said.

Rockow said the best thing to remember is this winter is most likely an exception.