How to Treat and Prevent Ice Dams

ice dams

The place you call home is a big investment. And since it’s a big investment, it makes sense to do all you can to protect it and prevent ice dams. Especially since nature is constantly doing it’s best to take its toll on your dwelling.

With winter approaching, nature really kicks it into overdrive – freezing temperatures, driving wind, snow, and…ice.

Ice can wreak havoc on all kinds of things – especially your gutters.

Today we’re giving you everything you need to know about ice dams – what they are, how to prevent them, and more!

What are Ice Dams?

As heat escapes through the roof of your house, it causes the snow to melt and flow toward the edge of the roof. Since the edges of your roof are not as exposed to the heat radiating from your house, the melted snow can reach that point and refreeze.

As this cycle repeats and repeats, the melted snow becomes literally a dam of rock-hard ice. This added weight and stress on your roof can lead to some serious problems like:

  • Roof leaks
  • Water damage to walls
  • Broken or damaged roofing
  • Broken or damaged gutters

This problem is what is known as an ice dam (also called an ice harbor dam).

Now What? Preventing & Ice Dam Removal

The saying is true – an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of treatment. Now that you know what an ice dam is and how it forms, you can take some ice dam prevention steps.

The easiest way to do this is by clearing snow off of your roof. You can do this with a snow rake, or just shoveling off the roof (just be sure to take appropriate safety precautions).

If it’s too late and an ice dam on your roof has already formed, you may be wondering how to remove ice dams. A snow rake won’t be able to handle the problem when you need to know how to get rid of ice dams. Instead, use one of the following methods to remove the ice dam.

1. De-Icer

De-icer comes in different forms – typically liquid or granular. It’s chemically formulated to melt snow and ice even when temperatures are below freezing.

Set up your ladder and carefully make your way to the ice dam. Apply a generous amount of de-icer to the ice dam and surrounding areas. Depending on the size of the ice dam, you may have to apply de-icer more than once.

Pro-Tip: Some might think that hot water would work just as well as de-icer. However, since we’re dealing with winter conditions, hot water will turn into cold water and from there to ice. It may seem like a quick fix, but it’s not worth the risk. Plus, climbing a ladder with a pot full of hot water is a disaster waiting to happen!

2. Chip Away Ice Dams

If you don’t have any de-icer on hand, you can try chipping away at the ice dam to remove it. Using an ice pick or awl, it will take some brute force, but this method can work. Again, make sure to take appropriate safety precautions and wear safety glasses (ice chips in the eyes can cause serious damage!).

Another thing to keep in mind with this method is that there is the potential of damaging your roof and/or gutters. De-icer is definitely the best option for removing ice dams.

Pro-Tip: If you’re not the do-it-yourself type, you could try searching “ice dam removal near me”. There are professionals out there who would be glad to take care of your ice dams for you. They even have a piece of equipment (called an ice dam steamer) designed specifically for ice dam removal!

Also, make sure you find the right gutter covers for your roof to help avoid damaging ice dams.