How to Eliminate Ice Dams: A Homeowner’s Guide to Ice Dam Prevention

October 25th, 2022 BY First American Roofing

Ice dam removal services can get pricey, but it’s nothing compared to what you’ll pay when the ice dams forming on your roof edge really start wreaking havoc. It’s important to address any recently formed ice dams immediately and do everything you can in terms of ice dam prevention to ensure your home stays safe and free from common ice dam-related issues, including:

All these problems above can be highly annoying (and expensive) to fix. That’s why ice dam prevention is so important for homeowners to keep in mind throughout the year. And we’re here to teach you how to get rid of ice dams for good with this in-depth guide.

​​ice dam prevention for gutters and roof

How Do Ice Dams Form? 🧊

To start, let’s cover exactly what an ice dam is and how one forms, in case you don’t already know. Ice damming happens after a heavy snowfall when the air in your attic is warmer than the outside temperature.

The bottom-most layer of snow melts with help from warm air in your attic, and the packed, heavy snow on top acts as an insulator. This allows the melting snow to flow down your roof, where it refreezes once it reaches the frigid outdoor temperature.

Once the melted snow moves away from your warm attic and reaches freezing temperatures again, long icicles and ice formations, called ice dams, form on your roof edge. If you don’t remove existing ice dams quickly, more meltwater flows down your icy roof deck and backs up behind the ice dam formation — hence, the name “ice dam.”

This can lead to ice dam damage like leaks and structural issues. 😫

ice dam forming on roof and in gutters

3 Easy Methods for Ice Dam Removal 🚫

Preventing ice dams is important, but removing ice dams that already exist is even more crucial. Letting ice dams fester can lead to far worse issues for you in the future. These are three common ways to remove ice dams and keep your roof protected:

#1: Chemical Ice Melt Products

One way to melt ice dams down is with calcium chloride. This is the same stuff you can use to melt ice and snow on your driveway and sidewalks. However, you don’t just want to toss calcium chloride straight onto your roof’s surface. Instead, fill tied-off tube socks or nylons with the calcium chloride granules, then place them along the edge of your roof to release more slowly.

🛑 Remember: Calcium chloride is useful for tackling ice dam problems, but it’s important to note that it’s not the same substance as rock salt — that’s sodium chloride. Rock salt can damage roof shingles and vegetation around your house, so always buy ice dam prevention products containing only calcium chloride that’s safe for your roof and the surrounding environment.

#2: Roof Rake or Ice Pick

Another snow removal tactic you can try out involves a snow rake or ice pick, but to be honest, we don’t recommend this route. Your ice dam problem is happening in the winter, so you won’t have an easy or safe time accessing your roof to remove snow.

Even with a long roof rake, you still risk being hurt by falling snow and ice dams. Using a pick to break ice dams down into smaller bits has also proven dangerous in the past.

However, if you feel confident that you can safely access your roof, using snow rakes and ice picks is self-explanatory. These manual tools can be used to scrape snow and ice from your roof’s surface to avoid ice dams in the days after a snowstorm or break down chunks that have already formed.

Just be careful if you have a metal roof because a roof pick or snow rake can easily scrape metal roofs.

​​ice dam prevention roof rake

#3: Professional Ice Dam and Snow Removal

Professional snow removal services are your best bet to safely get rid of ice dams. You may even find roofing contractors with commercial steaming equipment to perform professional ice dam steaming on your home.

Working with an experienced company is the best way to keep yourself and your roof safe from dangerous conditions and further ice dam issues down the line.

Tips to Prevent Ice Dams ✋

Now that you know how to get rid of the current ice dams on your roof let’s talk about some useful ice dam prevention methods you can use to stop ice dams from forming in the first place.

The Best Way to Prevent Ice Dams and Protect Your Home

Are you tired of dealing with recurring ice dam issues each winter? Well, you’re in luck. Here at First American Roofing & Siding, we specialize in all aspects of residential roofing. Whether you need to get rid of ice dam formations right now or want to address things like air leakage and inadequate roof ventilation, we’re here to help.

Get in touch with our experienced team today to tackle your ice dam problems and protect your home this winter.