When harsh, snowy weather conditions start becoming a common occurrence in winter, that’s when your home will be most susceptible to ice dams. Preventing ice dams is an integral part of every homeowner’s annual checklist since they can cause serious problems for your roof and even the people that occupy your house. Ice dams are a hazard, and you will likely need help to keep them at bay.

Learn more about how ice dams form, ice dam removal, and how to prevent ice dams in this helpful guide.

ice dam damage icicle formation on roof

What Are Ice Dams and Why Do They Form?

If you’re a new homeowner, you might be unfamiliar with what an ice dam actually is, but don’t worry; we’re here to explain. So, what exactly is an ice dam, and how does an ice dam form? Let’s take a closer look at this not-so-complicated cold-weather phenomenon:

When accumulated snow on your home’s roof is exposed to heat, the melting snow begins to flow off the roof surface. After the snow melts, it drains towards the roof’s edge and collects around gutters, especially if they’re clogged. At night as the temperature drops, the water freezes after the warm air disappears; thus, an ice dam forms.

Essentially, ice dams are large ice formations along the edges of roofs made by the melting and freezing of snow when the temperature changes throughout the winter season. Ice dams can harm the roof surface, impact gutters, cause interior damage, and create unsafe conditions around the ground of your house. It’s crucial to inspect your house each year and take action to prevent ice dams from forming.

Some places to assess around your roof and house for heat loss, water damage, and other issues indicating you may form ice dams this season include areas such as:

  • Attic space
  • Exterior walls
  • Dryer vents
  • Chimneys
  • Shingles
  • Eaves
  • Gutter system
  • Attic ceilings
  • Soffit vents

Things like a ceiling leak or water damage in your walls if often due to an ice dam. You can prevent melting snow flows and future ice dams on your roof in a variety of ways, but installing adequate ventilation and insulation in your attic space is a surefire way to stay ice dam-free.

Ice Dams Are a Sign of Poor Ventilation and Insulation

When your home’s roof isn’t ventilated properly, it can prevent heat and moist air from exiting the attic space. This moist air and heat buildup in your attic can warm the roof surface, melting snow on the roof.

Poor insulation will also lead warm air to flow out of the attic space. The warm roof will help form ice dams. Old, failing shingles also allow heat to leak out, so adding insulation to your attic walls and ceilings is essential. When your attic is well-insulated, you can avoid any severe damage caused by ice dams.

Another way ice dams form is because of faulty or clogged gutters, which don’t allow snow and ice to melt or drain. The freezing conglomeration creates an ice dam when snow and ice and other debris build up along your gutters. Whether you have metal gutters or a seamless system, you can still be susceptible to an ice dam issue. Remove snow and ice from your roof to keep ice dams at bay.

How to Remove Ice Dams the Right Way

So, what is the best way to remove an ice dam? Getting up on a ladder to remove snow on the roof during winter can be dangerous work. Although there are some at-home remedies to rid your roof of ice dams, taking the DIY repairs route can often lead to trouble if you don’t have the right tools or skill set. Instead, work with a professional roofing restoration team to remove ice dams the right way.

Here are a few prime examples of how the experts (or some “handy” homeowner) remove ice dams from a house:

Install Heat Cables (At a Cost)

Homeowners have started to battle ice dam formation by installing heat cable systems. As you can likely guess, heat cables help melt any snow and prevent the melted snow from freezing on roofs. Several different models can be found to outfit your house at popular home improvement retailers like Home Depot or Lowes.

Although heating cables can be helpful, it’s important to note that this isn’t the most effective way to eliminate ice dams from your house. It often takes a long time to melt the snow, making it challenging to keep up with any temperature fluctuations. Additionally, running heating cable systems throughout the winter season can rack up an expensive electricity bill, so it’s better to consider ice dam steaming instead.

Save Money and Steam

Avoid outrageous energy bills by utilizing ice dam steaming services from a trusted ice dam removal company in your area. The process of ice dam steaming is simple: specialized equipment is used to heat sections of shingles along your roof and melt the snow, so ice dams never even get the chance to form.

It essentially works the same way as the average clothing steamer seen in your laundry room, just on your roof and shingles. Ice dam steaming is the most widely accepted and recommended method of making sure your roof is free from ice dams. Check out an informative video on how ice dam steaming works below before scheduling your own services.

Take a Chance On Calcium Chloride

Remember those DIY remedies I mentioned earlier? Well, the compound calcium chloride, a member of the salt family, is one of the popular fixes homeowners like to try. Like the rock salt that you sprinkle on your driveway to melt freezing ice, calcium chloride can melt freezing ice dams without any damage caused to your shingles, chimneys, or gutter system.

Easily found at your local hardware or home improvement store, calcium chloride can be a beneficial tool, but it’s only a temporary solution.

Avoid Ice Rakes

Like we said before, ice dam removal is dangerous work, so you really don’t want to DIY this project. Before innovative equipment like ice dam steamers that revolutionized ice dam removal, homeowners used primitive tools to knock down each ice dam (and put themselves at risk.)

A roof rake or snow rake can be used to clear snow and ice from the roof covering. Another out-of-date tool is the push broom, but using these items instead of professional ice dam steaming services can put you at risk of slips, falls, or far worse.

ice dam damage in gutters cleaning with broom

5 of the Best Tips to Keep Ice Dams From Coming Back Each Winter

Take advantage of some of our top tips to prevent ice dams from impacting your house this winter:

Start With Your Gutter System

Clogged gutters can be one of the primary culprits causing ice dam issues at your house. If you notice that ice and snow are accumulating in your gutter system, ensure that they’re free of debris or opt for a covered system to avoid further ice dam formation.

Install Insulation

Ensuring that your roof and attic are well insulated is essential to avoiding ice dams since poor insulation can lead to warm air and heat loss. Look for gaps or leaks in your attic insulation and take the proper steps to remedy these problem spots before an ice dam starts to creep in.

Select Quality Sealant

Another thing to add to your shopping list before heading out to the home improvement store is a sealant for your shingles and roof surface. Choose a high-quality caulk or sealant from a reputable brand like Loctite to fill in any leaks and ensure you’re covered before winter comes. Filling in the gaps found in your attic will stop air from exiting the attic space.

Make Sure to Monitor

Keeping an eye on your house throughout the year is a critical aspect of owning a home. You don’t want water damage and other issues caused by ice dams to impact day-to-day activities in your primary living space.

Check on your roof, attic, and shingles to ensure there’s no water damage or a leak and that everything is well-insulated. Stay up-to-date on annual maintenance to make sure you’re prepared for preventing ice dams.

Ventilation Is Vital

Perhaps the most vital part of preventing ice dams from forming is installing proper attic ventilation. Just like attic insulation, the right ventilation system will stop your roof from warming up in the cold weather. Work with a professional roofing restoration team to tackle this important job, ensuring each vent is placed in the correct spot to avoid further issues.

Tackle Your Ice Dam Issues Today

Are you tired of using harsh salts or dangerous tools to remove ice dams from your roof each year? Stop spending money and energy on outdated ice dam removal solutions that still might not even work. Instead, call on the professionals to clean up this wintry mess with specialized ice dam steaming equipment.

Contact MARS Restoration today and get expert ice dam removal services you can rely on every winter.