3 Tips for Removing Ice Dams

Removing an ice dam is not for the faint of heart or those without plenty of physical strength. There are certain steps you need to follow to effectively remove them. Experts recommend calling in professionals if you have doubts about getting up on the roof yourself.

Ice dams should be removed as soon as possible before they have a chance to damage the roof, attic and other parts of the house.

If you do feel up to the job, here are three tips to help you do it thoroughly.

#1. During a heavy snow, use a roof rake.

This is especially effective and safe if the structure is a one story and you can stand on the ground. Since ice dams happen quickly after a big storm due to the insulating qualities of snow, you need to act fast.

Aim to get rid of snow at least four feet from the edge of the roof. A roof rake, which looks like a sideways shovel, lets you pull snow toward you. The handle is long, anywhere from 16’ to 21’.

Use the roof rake from a ladder. Do not get up on the roof, as the roof underneath the snow could be icy. It’s best that this be carried out as a two-man job, where one person holds the ladder steady at the bottom, and the other one uses the roof rake.

#2. Use calcium chloride or a product that melts ice.

If you can tell that a dam is already forming, get on the roof and put calcium chloride or a product like it on the ice. You can use ladies panty hose. Put the calcium choloride in the panty hose, tie it closed, and toss it on the roof.

Be extremely careful if you are doing this from a ladder. Icy conditions and ladder usage are a dangerous combination. Be sure someone else is close by.

#3. Don’t hesitate to call a professional.

Using a ladder and getting up on a roof in snow, ice and stormy weather is dangerous. Professionals have the equipment, experience and training to get rid of your ice dam quickly and safely.

Measure the cost of hiring the work done against doctor bills, time off to recuperate, pain and frustration due to a fall from the roof.

What Doesn’t Work

Several methods are in common use among homeowners but are not safe. Don’t be tempted by advice from a neighbor to use a hatchet, ice pick, screwdriver, propane torch, chainsaw, or hammer and chisel.

Stop Ice Dams from Forming

The easiest way to deal with the problem is to ventilate and insulate your roof and attic. When the attic flooring is adequately insulated, it reduces the amount of heat from the interior of the house that rises up to the attic.

By keeping it ventilated, cold air from outside can easily circulate within the attic. This lowers the temperature on your roof.

That means that the colder you can keep your attic, the less thawing and refreezing happens on the roof. This results in preventing ice dams from forming.

Insulate the attic completely. Seal all the openings but don’t block the vents in the process. Ventilate the attic using vents for eaves, soffits, roof ridges, gables and any other type that works for your roof. Consider installing a whole house fan to keep air circulating efficiently during the cold winter months.