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Ice Dams Explained


What are ice dams? How do you get rid of them? And how do you prevent them?

With the latest storms, Ice Dams will begin to make an appearance again. They may be beautiful, but if you notice icicles gathered along your gutter and roofline it can spell disaster. Why? Their presence most likely indicates the presence of an ice dam. Read on to learn more about ice dams, how to get rid of them, and what you can do to prevent them.

What is an ice dam?

An ice dam is a ridge of ice that forms along the edge of a roofline, preventing melting snow from draining (as water) off the roof. The snow on the roof will melt more quickly than the ice at the edge because of heat loss from the structure. For example, the warm air in an attic warms the roof and, over time, the snow begins to melt. This melting snow is now water, and it can back up behind the ice dam and eventually make its way into your home or office. If this happens, it can cause serious damage to your ceilings, walls, insulation, and any other surface it touches.

How to get rid of ice dams

There are basically two ways to approach ice dam removal: the quick fix and the slow melt.

Quick Fix

The fastest method is to chip away at the ice by breaking it into small chunks.

  • Use a blunt mallet and tap lightly.
  • Don’t use a sharp tool, such as an ax.
  • Go slowly – pieces of shingle could break off along with the ice.
  • Hire a professional, since this is dangerous work.

The Slow Melt

The slower method uses calcium chloride – NOT rock salt! – and time to melt the ice.

  • Create a trough-maker by using a tube of cloth or the leg of panty hose.
  • Tie one end tightly and fill the tube with the calcium chloride.
  • Once full, tie the other end off.
  • Lay the trough vertically along the ice dam and allow time for melting to occur.

Both methods can be tricky and dangerous for a homeowner.

Remember, it’s best to hire an experienced professional so you don’t add further and unnecessary damage to your roof.

How to prevent ice dams

It’s far better to do all you can to prevent ice dams from forming in the first place. Here are some tips to consider.

  • In late fall, make sure your gutters and downspouts are clear of debris. Again, this might be best done by a professional.
  • Evaluate the insulation in your attic and upgrade or replace to prevent conduction and convection of heat through the ceiling.
  • Consider venting the space between the insulation and roof sheathing, so that any escaping heat will be carried away.
  • Seal all areas where warm air might leak from the attic into the area of the roof just below the sheathing.

If a winter storm caught you off-guard before you had time to address any of these preventative measures, you can still take action to prevent ice dam formation. Using a rake or a broom from the top of a ladder, sweep fallen snow away from the roof. Be careful – disturbing the snow at the edge can cause the snow further up the roof to slide down! Alternatively, snow can be removed by using a shovel to push it off. Both methods are dangerous and can pose threat of injury, so hire a professional to do the work.

Calendar these steps and start preparing for potential ice dams long before winter arrives next year. When you do that, you can have peace of mind even during the worst of storms. But don’t despair – even if winter caught you unprepared, your local professional can take care of any dams that have formed. Hiring a pro. like Restoration 1 of West Denver  will be a small investment compared to the cost of repairing damage created by an ice dam! Give us a call at  72O-605-2994.