How To Safely Remove Ice Dams

Tuesday, December 1st, 2015 by James Hartkorn

How To Safely Remove Ice Dams
Image via liz west on 

Removing ice dams once they have formed can be extremely difficult, which is why a professional should be called in for the job. That said, there are pros and cons to professional removal vs. DIY. First off, what’s an ice dam? It’s a ridge of ice that accumulates at the edge of a roof during cold weather, preventing melting snow from running off the roof the right way. It basically gets jammed up at the ice dam, backing up slowly until that water starts to leak into your home. During a snow storm, the snow naturally melts when it comes into contact with the warm air from your attic, but then it refreezes once it hits the roof’s edge, where it’s not as warm, says the Family Handyman.


There are a few ways to prevent ice dams from forming in the first place, such as heat tape or cable; however, if you are already experiencing ice dams, you may be wondering how you can safely get rid of them before they cause damage. Let’s go over some comparisons of ice dam removal approaches: DIY vs. professional help.


You can remove ice dams yourself from the roof with an ice pick, axe or pressure washer on high heat. Another option is to toss roof melt tablets up on the roof to slowly melt the snow. None of these methods is particularly effective, and you risk life and limb when you get up on a ladder or on your roof during slippery, cold conditions. No one advises using an axe or pick – you will damage your roof and gutters, causing more problems than the ice dams will ever cause.

Roof rakes are a popular solution for reducing ice dams. These are extendable rakes which you can operate from a ladder or the ground to pull ridges of snow off the edge of your roof. This exposes ice to the air and the sun, making it more likely they will start to melt and not continue to build up. It can be risky to operate a roof rake from a ladder, because reaching out with the rake can take you off balance, so please be careful if you choose this method.


The only safe method for ice dam removal is by a professional. They have the equipment necessary to do the job right. Many companies use steamers that slowly heat up water, creating steam to slowly melt the ice. They also have the proper safety equipment such as harnesses, ladder stabilizers and even man lifts that keep them safe on the job. Most ice dam removal jobs take between two and four hours to complete. They’ll need a water source, so you’ll probably be asked to turn on your outdoor spigots. Most professionals only use steamers rather than hot-water pressure-washers, which only serve to flood the roof with too much water at once. As the ice started to break up, they will remove chunks of the ice and toss it onto the ground for removal later. It’s hard, dangerous work, which is why it’s always good to let the pros do it.

Having the right gutters installed on your home is an initial step to help avoid the buildup of ice dams. Contact LeafGuard by Midlands Home Solutions today to find out how we can help.

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