It's My Job: Father-son company removes ice dams

Business profile North Country Weatherization Technologies Ownership: Mark and Tanner Nelson Hours: By appointment Contact: Mark Nelson at (701) 361-0505, Tanner Nelson at (218) 790-3325 Mark Nelson has been removing ice dams from roofs since he ...

Mark and Tanner Nelson
Mark, left, and Tanner Nelson of North Country Weatherization Technologies place ICE-BE-GONE on the roof of a south Fargo home to create a trench in an ice dam for the water to run through. Carrie Snyder / The Forum

Business profile

North Country Weatherization Technologies

  • Ownership: Mark and Tanner Nelson
  • Hours: By appointment
  • Contact: Mark Nelson at (701) 361-0505, Tanner Nelson at (218) 790-3325

Mark Nelson has been removing ice dams from roofs since he was 16 years old.
The 52-year-old started when working for his dad's business, Gary Nelson Construction, installing drain tile and waterproofing basements.

"Come springtime, there'd be so much water in basements," he said.

So Nelson started removing snow from roofs with a homemade snow rake. He has since turned removing snow and ice dams from homes and commercial buildings into a business, North Country Weatherization Technologies, which also does roof ventilation. His son, Tanner, will take over the business after this year.


This year and last have been extremely busy due to deep snow followed by frigid weather, he said.

In 1997, another bad year for ice dams, Nelson came up with ICE-BE-GONE to melt ice dams.

Q: What is ICE-BE-GONE?

A: They come in a 3-by-24-inch nylon sack. You just lay it over the ice dam. Any time it's zero degrees and above, it only takes a couple days to melt through.

There are different types of ice melters. You don't ever want to use a chloride on your roof. Your chlorides include your rock salt and your calcium chloride. It's really hard on your shingles and membranes. It takes the paint off your gutters and kills the vegetation down below.

We use strictly acetates. They're all biodegradable, completely safe for vegetation, concrete, metal and the environment.

What should people know about ice dams?

They don't realize 1 inch of ice by 1 square foot weighs 5.2 pounds. So you've got to figure, an average ice dam is probably 8 inches tall. So a 1-square-foot piece of ice 8 inches tall weighs about 41-and-a-half pounds. I've done them all the way up to 18 inches. That's over 800 pounds on a 20-foot area hanging on their eaves. That's putting so much stress on there.


I think a lot of people don't really know what causes ice dams.

What is the cause?

Number one is poor ventilation in the attic. The other is poor insulation

in the floor of the attic.

Most of the time, your ice dam occurs where your wall meets your soffit. That area is where you have your heat loss. When you have all the snow on your roof, it actually serves as a blanket and keeps the heat in.

Your bathroom exhaust fans, light fixtures, electrical openings, plumbing penetrations and wire penetrations all cause heat loss into the attic. It heats up the attic, and the snow serves as a blanket. The heat in the attic, escaping up through your roof, actually melts the snow underneath the blanket of snow, and when it hits the soffit, that's cold and that's when it forms the ice dam.

A lot of people just need to fix the problem. You can use this ICE-BE-GONE for a temporary fix, but to really do it right, you need proper ventilation and insulation.

What are the dangers in not taking care of ice dams?


A lot of these jobs might start at $200-$300 for an average home. If you don't take care of it, you're talking thousands of dollars in damage inside your home.

What happens is the water forms a pool behind the ice dam. That water from the melted snow has nowhere to get off the roof, so it backs up into your shingles and drops down into your attic or down between your walls, and that's where you get all your water damage inside. Once it gets your sheetrock wet, it can cause mold. It's dangerous, actually.

You have to literally rip out all the walls and replace the insulation.

Describe how you remove the ice.

You don't always have to get all the snow off the roof. We try to stay off the roof. A lot of vents are plugged also, and then we have to get up there. Usually, we try to do it mostly from ladders

or from the ground. We use snow rakes to try to take off the snow at least 6 to 8 feet above the eves.

Then we lay these ICE-BE-GONE sacks, and that takes care of it. What it does is it trenches the ice dam so it releases the water off your roof so it's not backing up under your shingles.

Everybody thinks the gutters are causing the ice dams. That's not true. They remove their gutters; then all the water runs down along the foundation and then they get water in their basement.


Readers can reach Forum reporter Tracy Frank at (701) 241-5526

To submit an idea for "It's My Job," e-mail .

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