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Birds Cause Ice Dams in Minneapolis

Birds and Ice Dams

Inexperienced Minneapolis roofer uses the wrong roof vent

Kuhl replaces around 1500 of this type of roof vent every summer in the Minneapolis area because they are havens for critters

Birds might be the last thing you think about when you see ice dams forming on the edge of your roof this January. Yet birds can play a role in how they affect the ventilation of your roof. And as we all know, ventilation and insulation are two of the three key factors in ice dam prevention (air bypasses are the third). If you would like to geek out on ice dams here is the article I wrote for JLC two years ago.

Back to the birds. You see, birds have a strong attraction to a particular type of roof vent that pepper the roof tops of 75-85% of all homes in the Twin Cities. See Above. Proper air movement through your roof system is a very important point in the health of your home. Good air flow will also reduce the likelihood of ice dam and attic frost problems in the future. Most Minneapolis homes rely on two types of cooperative vents to carry fresh air through the rafter and truss spaces; the soffit vent and the roof vent. The main things that clog up soffit vents are sloppy painters who gum up the vent openings with paint, or, sloppy insulators who block the rafter openings that lead to the soffit vents with careless insulation work. Problems with roof vents, which exist near the peak of the roof, are almost always related to critters. Anything the inhibits the free movement of air through roof vents are a bad thing and are best avoided by using a quality vent. Find information on the average cost of roof vent replacement in Minneapolis later in this post.

Over the past 20 years we have replaced thousands of low quality roof vents with metal louvered vents. Many of those jobs had one thing in common; the homeowner had now idea there was a problem. Sometimes one can use a binoculars to inspect the roof vents from the ground successfully. You can see little bits of nesting materials hanging out of the vents. Case closed.  It’s time to replace your roof vents. But frequently nests can’t be seen at all, leading the unsuspecting homeowner to think they are in the clear (below).

We did a roof repair in Shorewood last week where all but one of the 12 roof vents were filled with birds’ nests (Right). From the ground and from the roof everything looked good. After closer inspection we found the nests and were given the go-ahead to replace. I took a bunch of photos to show you what we find during these jobs.

Sneaky birds nesting in cedar vents.

Cost for roof vent replacement in Minneapolis:

The sad part is the cheap vents (shown above) cost Minneapolis roofing contractors about $11.00 a piece while the really good vents cost about $14.00. The average Minneapolis home has about 10 roof vents, making the total cost difference between crappy and awesome about $30 during the installation of a new roof. Note that replacing existing vents is a far more expensive endeavor, with average costs ranging from $80 to $140 per vent for labor and materials. Therefore, installing good vents while your roof is being replaced is essentially free and doing it after the roof has been installed is likely a $1000+ affair.

Same roof vent as above sawn in half. The nest has completely blocked the vent.

It’s not all bad news, however. If you are about to have a roof installed make sure to speak with your roofing contractor about what vents he is proposing. The upgrade should be provided at no extra costs if you are dealing with a reputable roofing professional.


Although ice dams here in Minneapolis are the result of a complex interaction between the snow cover on the roof, the outdoor temperatures, and the heat-loss characteristics of the house, proper home ventilation is among the most important things you can do to minimize your risk. Relative to the cost of other home fixes such as reinsulating or heat cable installation, replacing bad roof vents is a pretty affordable job.

Ice dam prevent starts with good ventilation on Minneapolis Roofs

Bird saddened by impervious roof vent professionally installed by Kuhl.

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