Ice Dams - What Are They And How To Remove Them

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Ice Dams – What Are They And How To Remove Them

Ice Dams – What Are They And How To Remove Them

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You know you’re dealing with an ice dam when you see long icicles hanging from your roof or eavestrough during the winter. Ice dams can cause a lot of damage to your roof, shingles, eaves, and home which can be expensive to fix. This repair cost can get even worse if you don’t take care of the problem before it gets worse.

ice dam

What Causes Ice Dams?

Ice dams are caused by a build-up of snow and ice along your roof which causes the water to freeze in your eavestroughs. This blockage means that the water caused by your snow melting has nowhere to go, making it collect and freeze in your eavestrough. This is bad news because this collection of ice can weigh down your eavestrough and cause them to become warped and break away from your house.

The reason that the ice is able to build up in your eavestroughs is because your attic heats up during the summer which causes the snow on your roof to melt and flow towards your unheated eavestrough. The water then freezes along the eaves, causing the ice to build up over time. From there the ice creates added weight which is applied to your eaves and the water accumulates behind the eavestrough and flows under your shingles to enter your home.

What Can Happen if an Ice Dam Builds Up?

The biggest problem that can happen to your home with ice dams is if water leaks into it. This can cause thousands of dollars in damage to your house. From the insulation and drywall to the structure of your home, water can quickly cause a lot of problems that are very expensive to fix. Plus you may deal with mold if the water gets into your house and isn’t addressed properly.

There’s also the potential damage to your shingles and roof because of ice dams. Ice damage to roof integrity can cause one of the biggest headaches for you as a homeowner because it threatens the safety of your entire home and causes a lot of avoidable damage.

How Do You Get Rid of Ice Dams?

You should never turn to using a hammer or chisel when removing ice dams because you’re more likely to cause damage to your roof and shingles than to the ice dam. Salt is also ineffective when the snow and ice have built up to the point of creating a dam on your roof. There are steps you can take that should help with the snow and ice build up on your roof causing the ice dam to appear. Here are seven of the most effective ways to combat ice dams on your roof:

Using Steam to Remove the Dam

One of the most surefire ways to get rid of an ice dam without causing damage to your home and wrecking your roof is to use steam when removing ice dams. The benefit of steam is that it doesn’t damage your roof and it prevents more water from entering your home.

You can’t just use any steamer and expect to get good results though. Instead, you should rely on a professional, licensed company that can remove the ice dam properly from your roof. If you attempt to buy and use a steamer on your own you risk damaging both the steamer and your house, costing you more in the long run.

Upgrading The Insulation in Your Attic

Another way to prevent ice dams from building up is to check the insulation in your attic to make sure it’s up to code and that it’s properly insulated. If the insulation in your attic is a lower grade or wasn’t installed properly you may be letting heat escape through your attic and into your roof. You should always start your preventative measures by working on the insulation in your attic. This is also a good step to take once you’ve dealt with an ice dam to prevent a new one from building up on your house.

Using a Roof Rake

Once you’ve made sure that your home is properly insulated and any air gaps are sealed in your home leading to your attic, there are a few other steps you can take to prevent ice dams from building up on your roof. One great tool you can use is a roof rake. If you use this long rake on your roof in the winter you can prevent snow from building up in any deep valleys by using the rake to remove the snow.

When using the rake make sure you’re pulling the snow along the roof line vertically. If you try and pull snow horizontally across your roof you risk damaging the shingles and causing other damage to your roof. Also make sure you stand back from your house to remove any risk of getting hurt.

Installing Heat Tape

You can also invest in heat tapes which are designed to melt channels in the ice so the water can get out. These are often used in difficult to reach roof valleys where using a rake to remove the build-up is more difficult. When you are installing a new roof, make sure you are also installing the ice and water shield at least 7 feet up each heated wall.

Blowing Cold Air in Your Attic

Some people have also had success by blowing cold air into their attic where the dam is leaking water into it. This will freeze the water and stop it from leaking long enough for you to repair the leak and remove the ice from your roof. This may not work if you don’t have easy access to your attic or are unable to cool the space down efficiently.

Using High Pressure Water on Your Roof

Another method some companies try is using high pressure water to remove the ice. While it can be messy it does get the job done quickly and can be less expensive than using steam to remove the dam. This is typically done using a special machine that can target the ice effectively so it can be removed without damaging your house.

Roof Melt Tablets

Roof melt tablets can melt ice in chunks and are easy to toss onto the roof without needing a ladder. These tablets create channels for the water to drain through and are best used on small areas of ice. The challenge with using roof melt tablets is that they can be hard to place in the proper spots so they’re as effective as possible. Also, if you have a large dam on your roof they may not be the best solution.

Can I Use Calcium Chloride to Melt Ice Dam on Roof?

Calcium chloride is identified as a corrosive substance when it comes in contact with certain metals such as the nails used in your roof. This means that if you use calcium chloride to melt ice dams on your roof there’s a good chance you will cause those nails to corrode which impacts the integrity of your roof and shingles.

The use of calcium chloride can also be harmful to plants and landscaping around your home. You should stay away from using chemicals like calcium chloride when trying to melt ice dams from your roof because of the potential damage it could cause.

How Much Does it Cost to Have Ice Dams Removed?

The average cost of getting an ice dam removed is $1000. This amount is based on three hours of labor for a two-story, 1500 square foot home. Of course, that number is going to vary depending on who you hire, the degree that the ice dam has grown, where the ice dam is located, and how long it takes to melt from your roof.

You should never just go for the cheapest ice dam roof removal service you can find because you’ll likely be getting what you pay for which could cause more damage to your home. You also have to make sure that you choose a company that is properly licensed and insured so you’re protected.

How to Pick a Removal Company

The best way for you to pick the professional company for your house is to do your research. This means looking at their liability and insurance coverage, reading past reviews online, checking out images of the work they’ve done, and speaking to clients they’ve worked with before.

Try and avoid people who are advertising lower than expected rates or are over-promising without seeing the project in person. You can also check out the Better Business Bureau website to learn more about the company you’re thinking of hiring for the job.


Winter can bring with it a lot of problems for homeowners. This can be true for both new builds and older homes. Dealing with water damage caused by winter conditions can get expensive so you need to make sure you’re as prepared as you can be when winter strikes. This means maintaining your roof and home as best you can to prevent further damage so you can focus on enjoying winter.

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