Updated: May 23
While quick fixes are nice to have handy when an ice dam forms on your roof, it’s infinitely better not to have to deal with ice build-up in the first place. We asked some home and roofing gurus for their thoughts on how best to protect your roof from ice and here’s what they had to say:
Matthias Alleckna, Energy Analyst at EnergyRates.ca.
Melt the Ice with Calcium Salt
Hacking away at ice dams can not only do additional damage to your roof but can cause grievous harm to you as well. The safest way to get rid of ice dams in the short term is to melt them quickly. For the longer term, you're going to want to do some permanent, preventative measures.
A tried-and-true method of melting ice dams is to fill a nylon stocking with calcium salt that you use to melt ice. Place it on the damming, overhanging onto the eaves. The salt will eventually melt the snow and ice while creating a channel for the water to run off.
Prevention Is Best
Unfortunately, only small ice dams can be broken by the homeowner. Large ice dams require melting in the first place. A professional should make drainage holes in the ice dam and melt it to minimize the size of ice sheets that will slide down. It’s an extremely dangerous procedure and it requires professional handling to prevent damage to the household.
What a homeowner can really do is prevent the ice dams from forming. Here are the best ways to do it:
Rake the roof after a snowfall The snow is malleable enough for raking only a few hours after the snowfall. It may start melting and hardening during the day if you don’t remove it. Take a roof rake with at least a 20 ft. extension pole and remove the snow from the eaves of the roof. Do it regularly and the ice buildup will be minimal.
Seal the attic If your house’s attic receives warm air from the interior part of the house, this is already a problem. You have to find and seal all the interior warm air leaks to keep the attic cold and prevent the lower layer of snow from melting. The attic still should be ventilated, but with the intake vents that will bring inside the cold air from the street.
Install roof de-icing cables A roof de-icing system is a good DIY project that involves installing the cables all over the eves of the roof to melt ice dams “in the bud” and prevent the ice build from forming.
Sean Chapman, Founder & Editor-in-Chief at Tools'n'Goods. Sean is a professional carpenter with over 10 years of experience.
Kim Marin, Roofing Expert at HammerHead Roof.
Use a Roof Rake, Snowblower
Ice dams are from melted snow or icicles that form and trap at the edge of a roofline during the winter season. As a roofing expert, it is vital to look for water leakages and stains for both the exterior and interior of the house. This way, you can determine where it was formed for easy removal. The sooner you get rid of those particles, the more you avoid your home getting ruined.
A roof rake and a snowblower are quick remedies to eliminate ice dam particles. Some use ice melt chemicals to fix the issue momentarily. However, there is no guarantee that those ways cannot damage your roof. That's why it is better to seek roofing professionals to fix that matter. Ensure your home is well-ventilated and add additional insulation to maintain your house's current state and stop ice dams in the future.
Melt with De-Icer, Hot Water
Gently run hot water over the entire length of the ice dam, as well as into the openings of downspouts. Or use a roof-friendly chemical de-icer product (not rock salt) by either applying it directly over the top of the ice in your gutter or by filling old stockings or pantyhose, sealing the ends, and laying them atop the ice dam.
It’s not recommended to chip the ice away if you have an ice dam. If you do this, you are in danger of damaging your shingles, which could lead to even more damage, as well as a large home insurance claim. And if you have a monumental amount of ice blockage, you may want to consider hiring professionals who have the proper equipment and know-how to steam the ice away.
Prevent ice dams by having a cold roof. The ways to accomplish this include having 10-14 inches of insulation in your attic, sealing air leaks, and having adequate vents on your roof or on your eaves.
A preventative measure against ice dams is to use a snow rake. Although it’s labor-intensive and time-consuming, it will allow you to pull snow off of the roof to prevent it from melting on your roof. Only use a snow rake from the ground, and work slowly and gently to reduce injury to yourself. And shave down the snow instead of scraping it clean to reduce injury to your roof.
You could consider having heat gutter cables installed to prevent ice dams in the future.
Karen Condor is a home maintenance expert with Clearsurance.com.
Michael Callahan, Founder of Comfort 1st Insulation.
Air Sealing and Attic Ventilation for a More Permanent Fix
To get straight to the point, one quick fix to removing ice dams is to rake snow away about three to four feet past the gutter of your home. This quickly takes away the problem. Even though quick fixes work, the prevention of ice dams is much more efficient. Ice dams form when heat escapes an attic, melting the snow outside, only to have it refreeze again, creating those nasty ice dams. To prevent this, locating and air sealing those points is a crucial step. Having proper ventilation also prevents ice dams because it means that your attic will stay cool while the inside of your home stays nice and warm.
This is a crowdsourced article. Contributors are not necessarily affiliated with this website and their statements do not necessarily reflect the opinion of this website, other people, businesses, or other contributors.