Ice Dam Removal Tips

During the winter, icicles are a common sight along the roof lines of homes and buildings.  In fact, the image of icicles lined up along a building is one of the first that comes to mind in relation to the winter season.  As charming as icicles look along your home, they are typically the sign of a common winter problem; ice dams.

Water Damage Caused by Ice Dams


Without immediate attention, ice dams can cause considerable water and mold damage to homes and buildings.

Ice dams are thick mounds of ice that form at the edge of the roof and they prevent water from the melting ice and snow from draining properly from the roof.  Ice dams form when heat from the attic melts the snow or ice in one spot of your roof, only for the water to become frozen again at the edge of your roof.  Over time, these ice dams can grow big enough to do some serious damage to your property.

How Ice Dams Damage Homes and Buildings

There are several ways that ice dams can cause property damage.  The weight of the ice dams can result in physical damage to the features of your roof such as the shingles and eaves, as well as the gutters and downspouts.

The ice dams can also cause water to pool in one area of your roof due to poor drainage.  When this happens, the water can leak into your home and cause staining and physical damage to the walls, ceilings, and insulation.  Areas of your home affected by water damage are also vulnerable to mold growth.  If you notice an ice dam forming on your roof, you must react quickly and take action to help remove it before it causes major damage.

This guide contains ice dam removal tips to help you get rid of ice dams from your property, as well as permanent fixes for ice dam prevention

Ice Dam Life Cycle

Ice dams form gradually in the right conditions and will get worse if no action is taken.  It helps to know the developing stages of ice dams so you can identify them early and take action to prevent major damage.

  • Ice dams start when heat escapes to your roof and warms up an area away from the eaves.


    Without proper roof insulation, ice dams can cause significant leaks and water damage in the ceiling.

  • The snow will melt in the warm area of the roof and freeze again on the edges where there is no heat. By this point, you can see ice forming along the edge of your roof.
  • The accumulation of ice will soon grow large enough to put stress on the eaves and gutters and block any water from draining from the roof. As a result, water from melting snow or ice will either freeze at the eaves and make the ice dams bigger or find its way into your home through the shingles.  At this stage, you will see icicles hanging from the gutters and eaves.  Signs of water damage may also become apparent inside your home.

Removing Ice Dams

Once you have determined that there is an ice dam forming on your roof, you must immediately act to remove it.  There are several things you can do quickly to help remove the ice dams.  Please do not try to remove the ice by chipping it away with a hammer or shovel; this could result in damage to your roof.

Try the following actions to get rid of ice dams:

  • Introduce Cold Air: You can stop melted ice and snow from leaking into your home by introducing cold air to the area. Put a box fan in the attic under the leaking area of your roof and blow air at the area to cool the roof down which will cause the water to freeze.


    Using cold air, a roof rake, or deicer can safely melt the ice dams and prevent structural damage to the roof.

  • Use a Roof Rake: You can remove ice and snow from your home using a roof rake. These rakes are specifically designed with wheels and a long handle so you can effectively rake your roof while standing safely on the ground.  Roof rakes are typically made of aluminum and they will not damage your shingles.  Do not ever climb up on your roof to shovel or rake it as this can be very dangerous.
  • Use Deicer: Deicer can be used to melt away some of the ice and form a channel for water to safely drain off the roof. The most effective way to do this is to put a calcium chloride deicer in pant hose and lay it across the ice dam so it hangs over the gutter.  The channel this creates will help guide the melted water into the gutters for proper drainage.

Ice Dam Prevention

The ice dam removal methods described above are quick fixes that should be done after you find ice dams on your home.  The most effective way to fight ice dams, however, is to prevent them in the first place.  Remember, ice dams form when heat escapes and unevenly warms up the roof, so the goal of ice dam prevention is to make sure your home is properly insulated to avoid warming up the roof.

The following actions will help you prevent the formation of ice dams on your property:

  • Ventilate the Roof: Installing ridge vents and continuous soffit vents on your roof will help keep the roof cold by circulating cold air underneath it. Make sure all the vent openings are the same size and placed about every 300 square feet on the roof.
  • Seal Attic Hatch: If your attic has a hatch or fan, you must cover these openings with weather-stripped caps to prevent heat from escaping.
  • Check Exhaust: The exhaust from your bathroom, kitchen, and dryer vent must be released outside through ducts attached to the walls or roof. Exhaust should never be released through the soffit.


    Be sure that the attic is properly insulated to prevent ice dams from forming.

  • Insulate your Attic: Make sure your attic has enough insulation to prevent the heat from escaping and warming the roof.
  • Install IC Rated Light Fixtures: IC, or insulation contact, light fixtures can be installed in ceilings that are insulated without the risk of fires or excess heat. You should consider replacing ceiling lights with IC rated light fixtures.
  • Secure the Chimney Flashing: Use L-shaped steel flashing to help secure the flashing around the chimney.
  • Seal and Insulate Air Ducts: Make sure your air ducts are properly sealed and insulated, an HVAC professional can help.
  • Seal Penetrations: Use caulk to seal around all roof penetrations including vent pipes and cables.

Ice dams are a common issue in the winter and if they are not removed, they can lead to physical damage to your roof as well as water damage inside your home.  The best way to protect your home against ice dams is to take preventative actions before the winter.  If ice dams have caused water damage inside your home, make sure you contact a specialist immediately for water damage restoration services.  These professionals will remove the excess water or moisture quickly to avoid serious structural damage or mold growth.

About the author

Luke Armstrong

Expert in emergency fire and water restoration services, fire cleanup and water damage cleanup, mold removal, as well as commercial and residential cleaning services, including carpet, upholstery and furniture cleaning. Contributor to several restoration and cleaning blogs.

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