How To (Safely) Get Rid Of Ice Dams Without Damaging Your Roof

Recurrent ice dams can be a nightmare for homeowners. They can be difficult (and dangerous) to remove, especially if you don’t know what you’re doing. Because you could end up damaging your roof or home, we will give homeowners some tips on safely getting rid of ice dams without any damage to their property.

First, What are Ice Dams?

Ice dams are formed from melting snow, which refreezes as it flows down your roof and collects at the edge. This buildup of ice creates a barrier between warm air inside your home and the cold outdoors. This can be dangerous and problematic for many reasons:

  • If too much heat escapes through your roof, your energy bills could skyrocket.
  • The ice buildup on the edges of your roof can lead to leaks, which damage interior walls and ceilings.
  • Ice dams create hazardous conditions for anyone who walks onto (or under) an icy or snowy rooftop; this includes homeowners as well as contractors.
  • The weight of ice dams can tear off your gutters, soffit, or even shingles.
  • In the spring melt, the amount of water can overwhelm your gutters, and frozen debris can get caught up, causing them to clog.

Ice dams, if left untouched, can grow into a giant mound of ice that reaches the ground. If they get this bad, it can be detrimental to your roof and gutters. Fortunately, there are steps you can take to prevent ice dams, to begin with, and avoid having to deal with them in the winter months.

ice dam on roof

Tips for Preventing Ice Dams

Ice dam prevention is your best bet at ensuring they don’t happen in the first place, thus avoiding any unsafe removal methods. Here are some great tips for ice dam prevention that can save you a ton of time and money. 

Get a Pre-Winter Inspection

Your first step should be to contact your local home inspector or roofing contractor before winter hits. They will walk around the exterior of your house and check for any problems that could cause ice dams or leaks during heavy winter weather, such as missing shingles, torn-up flashing, cracks in siding, or other parts of the roof, etc.

Increase Your Roof’s R-Value (Add Insulation)

While increasing your roof’s r-value may seem like an obvious step—increasing the insulation in your attic is one of the best ways to prevent ice dams from forming on your roof because it keeps the heat in the attic and prevents it from escaping through your roof.

Another way to boost insulation is by adding weatherstripping around doors, windows, siding, vents, etc. This will help keep warm air inside your home while also preventing cold air from entering or re-entering.

attic insulation to prevent ice dams

Ensure Your Attic is Properly Ventilated

Ventilation is another critical step in preventing ice dams because it helps prevent moisture from building up on the roof. If you have an unfinished attic or crawl space, be sure to turn your fan on when temperatures drop below 50 degrees Fahrenheit (or if moist air accumulates after rain showers or storms).

Make Sure Gutters Are Clean

Your gutters are an essential part of your home’s exterior. They keep everything flowing freely, and if they’re not draining correctly, this is where ice dams will form because the melted snow has nowhere to go but back up against your roof and cause problems. You can contact a professional for help cleaning them out or at least make sure you keep debris from piling up in them as you do your regular yard work.

gutter cleaning

Prevent Snow From Building Up on Your Roof

If you can shovel your roof before the snow accumulates, this is a great way to prevent ice dams from forming because it ensures that they don’t have enough time or space to grow into large mounds of ice. If you do get an early flurry, make sure to clear it away as quickly as possible before more snow builds up.

How to Safely Remove Ice Dams Without Damage or Injury

Now the fun part: how to remove those darned ice dams if they build up during the winter. Of course, it’s always recommended you hire a professional to remove ice dams because of the risk involved, but there are some steps you can take to safely do so yourself. 

First, Here’s What NOT To Do to Remove Ice Dams

  • Do not use an ice pick or chisel to chip away at the ice. This puts your roof and gutter at significant risk of damage, or more importantly, injury to yourself.
  • Do not use salt to melt the ice. While salt works great for keeping your sidewalk free of thin layers of ice, thick ice dams will likely not melt quickly, and the salt may stain your shingles and clog your gutters.
  • Do not use hot water to melt the ice dams. That water will eventually freeze, and if it runs off your roof, you’re just going to have icicles and frozen pools of water form, which become dangerous for anyone walking by.
  • Do not use any other chemicals said to melt ice quickly. Again, this puts your roof at risk of damage and corrosion.
  • Do not, by any means, use a blow torch or other flame source to melt ice dams quickly. This may seem obvious, but you do not want to start your house on fire. Stay far, far away.
  • Do not use a pressure washer to try to blow them off. This method, again, only adds more water to the situation, which will then freeze and only worsen your situation. It also can blow up under the ice dams and into your attic, causing water damage.

Instead, try one of the following methods to safely remove any ice dams with little to no risk to your roof.

Install Heated Cables

Installing heated cables could be more of a preventable measure because they can be difficult to install after the first big snow, but regardless, they are a quick way to melt ice dams from the outside, rather than techniques that work from inside your home. Heated cables get installed along your gutters or roof edge in a zig-zagged pattern, and they work by regulating your roof’s temperature, thus melting the ice dams.

Hire a Professional to Steam The Ice Dams Away

Hot steam is a very effective and safe method of ice dam removal. It melts them relatively slowly and less aggressively than other methods while preserving the integrity of your roof and preventing the ice dams from falling off and ripping down your gutters. 

If you have found yourself dealing with ice dams every winter, work with Apple Roofing to take the steps necessary to prevent them once and for all. We offer professional roofing inspections, repair, and even replacement if necessary. So let’s get your home’s performance working right before the frost sets in. Call us today!

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