Removing an ice dam can be done relatively easily if caught early enough, the best ways to remove an ice dam are:
- Using calcium chloride de-icer
- Use hot water
- Cool down your attic
- Invest in an ice dam steamer
- Hire a professional
Ice dam removal can be dangerous if done wrong. Follow all my professional tips on removing ice dam formations, along with what you can do towards ice dam prevention.
What is an ice dam? The formation of an ice dam is caused by runoff from melting snow refreezing before it makes it off of the roof and down the gutter. As the snow melts, either from heat loss through the roof or a rise in ambient temperature, it can refreeze once it reaches the cooler part of the roof edge.
You now have the start of ice damming occurring, each time this happens you have more ice damming up. Hey presto, an ice dam is born.
Why Are Ice Dams So Bad?
When ice dams develop they can be extremely hard to deal with. In the event that a large amount of ice builds up, you will need to use the services of an ice dam removal company. Although they will eventually melt, it will be too late. If you don’t remove ice dams from a roof, the likelihood of major damage already being caused is great.
There are various forms of ice dam damage, but the main problem will be water damage caused by melted snow penetrating roofing materials. You are then likely to have water leaks inside the attic. This can result in watermarks on walls, warping of door frames, and worse still lighting fixtures being exposed to water.
In addition to all of that, your roof deck can be compromised, and shingles lifted if the water refreezes underneath them. And, in the worst scenario the weight pulling of your guttering or causing damage to the roof structure itself, or injuring someone below.
Removing Ice Dams Yourself: Is It Possible?
Although I think there is a magical feel to icicles hanging from the roof edge and glistening in the winter sunshine, icicles are a very good sign that you have potential ice dams on the way.
But, catch them early, and there may be some ice dam removal methods that you can do yourself.
If you know the answer to what is an ice dam, you will also know when it comes to ice dams, prevention is better than cure. I deliberately said ‘catch them early’ and ‘there may be something that you can do’ for a reason.
What NOT To Do When Removing Ice Dams
Before I start I have to say, unlike the guy below, NEVER get onto a roof without safety gear and training, especially in icy conditions.
There are some key things that you should never do when carrying out ice dam removal. Although most will be obvious, some are not. Read on to find out the don’ts.
Don’t Use Heated Cables
If you have heat cables installed, all well and good, but these are definitely prevention, not a cure. Even for prevention, you will find that an awful lot of professional ice removers will not recommend heat cables or similar products. Stating that they simply do not work efficiently enough to stop future problems.
Don’t Hit The Ice With A Hammer
Trying to break an ice dam up is a serious no-go. You will end up either damaging yourself or the roof.
Don’t Use Ice Melts And Pucks
Never use any form of salt on your roof. Not only will it not melt an ice dam the likelihood of it stopping one is slim. Salt will stain and damage roofing materials and any runoff later will damage any surface or plants below.
Don’t Try To Remove Solid Ice With A Roof Rake
If you own have a roof rake, even if it’s not one of the best roof rakes, using it to remove snow from your roof regularly may help prevent an ice dam. But, do not try to remove ice with it. Again, this may well damage your roof and even pull shingles off with it.
How To Remove Ice Dams: Best DIY Methods
Although this is about ice dam removal, you will find that a lot also pertains to ice dam prevention. Mainly, as you will see, the two go hand in hand.
Using Calcium Chloride De-Icer
You can strategically place an old pantyhose filled with either magnesium chloride or calcium chloride ice melt. However, there are drawbacks to this solution, firstly it will take some time to start the melting process. But, secondly, and more importantly, both of these chemicals may cause staining to your roof shingles.
Cool Down Your Attic
Cooling down your attic will stop any further snow from melting and limit your ice problem. But it can also eliminate ice dams, or at least limit the risk to a minimum. Because you are reducing the temperature of the roof’s surface, you prevent snow from melting.
Blowing cool air into your attic is a remedy to warm air in the roof space. But, by making sure that you have good attic insulation, or by adding attic ventilation, you will keep the roof’s temperature down.
Invest In An Ice Dam Steamer
Yes, ice dam steamers are available on the market, but, not only will a good quality product be extremely expensive ($3000-$5000), but they can also be dangerous things to use. Personally, unless you have the experience I would not recommend taking this option.
Hire A Professional
Once again I say if you have an ice dam problem call in the ice dam removal company. Ok, but how much does it cost to remove an ice dam? I hear you ask. Well, it’s not cheap I’m afraid, and works out at about $400-500 an hour, for a reasonably sized ice dam you are looking at about 4 hours of labor. But, that’s much cheaper than a roof repair bill.
There you have it, I hope you have learnt something from this article and hopefully you will now be able to prevent ice damming in the future.
So, if you ever ask yourself how to get rid of ice dams again, you know the answer. Of course, it’s not just ice you need to worry about, snow is also a big problem and you should know how much snow your roof can hold, which I have covered in another article.
People Also Ask (FAQs)
Here are some answers to questions that I have not covered in my blog. Hopefully, these will help you further in your quest to stop ice dams from forming and prevent damage.
What causes icicles on gutters?
Icicles forming on a gutter are usually a sign that either melting snow or rainwater is freezing rapidly as it leaves the roof. This can be the start of ice damming and you should take measures to sort it before you have a full-blown ice dam.
Does insurance cover ice dam removal?
Although some home insurance policies cover ice dam damage that occurs to a property because of an ice dam. Rarely, in my experience will they cover the removal of an ice dam.
Should you knock off icicles?
Knocking icicles off can be extremely dangerous for obvious reasons of injury and damage. Icicles forming on the edge of a roof are often a sign of bigger problems, there may also be an ice dam up there that needs to be removed.
Do steel roofs prevent ice dams?
Because snow can slide easier on steel or metal roofs you are less likely to have ice dams form. But, it does happen so there is no guarantee.
Do snow guards prevent ice dams?
Many homeowners ask if snow guards will prevent an ice dam from forming in the winter months. Sadly, the answer is no they do not. Ice dams are formed from melting snow refreezing before it makes off the roof and into the gutter. Snow guards are designed to prevent snow avalanches off your roof, rather than prevent ice dams.