Our mission is to help you make informed decisions about how to deal with ice dams on your roof
Nearly every winter, ice dams create millions of dollars in damage to homes and businesses across the U.S. We want to show you what they are, how to spot them, how to prevent them, and how to know when they’re becoming an emergency that requires professional ice dam removal. We also want to show you how to pick professionals who will actually help and not leave a path of destruction in their wake.
The info on this site is free. All you need to do is read it and take the hard-learned advice. You’ll be glad you did if you have an ice dam, or know that you just prevented one. This site is meant to help you save money and heartache.
Everything You Need to Know About Ice Dams
We’ve done everything we can to try to make this “ice dam guide” - the long page you’re on right now - as comprehensive as possible. We hope it tells you everything you need to know.
But believe it or not, this page doesn’t hold everything we know about ice dams: it’s just plain-English answers to the burning questions that we expect to be on your mind right now. (By the way, feel free to contact us if you’ve got a question we don’t address.)
What is an ice dam?
You may not think much about “melting” when snow is piled high on your roof (and just about everywhere else you turn). It’s like a colorless Jabba the Hut, just sitting there for longer than you care to pay attention.
But under the surface, snow does melt. It melts all season long - either because the sun melts it, or because the snow lands on something that’s warm enough to melt it.
Snow often melts on your roof, which is probably hot due to warm air leaks into your attic, poor insulation and/or ventilation in the attic.
You’d think the melting snow would just drain right off your roof. But alas, your roof has cold spots. Your overhangs and roof valleys are the most common cold spots. When the melting snow meets these cold spots it can re-freeze very quickly.
Over the course of days and weeks, this constant melting-and-refreezing cycle causes a small ridge of ice (yep, an ice dam!) to form. Melted snow then gathers behind this ice dam, first forming a little puddle, and later a big puddle. That water is trapped on your roof, so it starts seeping under your shingles. Shingled roofs are designed to shed water, not hold water. That’s when water starts leaking into your home. But because you may not notice the leaking for a while, there’s a good chance it will cause thousands of dollars in damage - and sometimes tens of thousands of dollars.
Left to its own devices, the ice dam gets bigger and bigger over time. Snow can melt and refreeze many times in even a single day. The ice soon forms a giant ice wall that can be nearly impossible to remove safely on your own.
Many homeowners don’t suspect an ice dam is on their roof until water is pouring in through the ceiling. Spotting an ice dam before it turns into an emergency situation is a great way to save money. It’s also the best way to avoid a leaky home, damaged personal property, contractors & insurance companies, and all kinds of agony.
When does an ice dam form?
You can get an ice dam any time snow falls, piles up on your roof, and melts. One of three things can cause snow to melt on your roof: heat from the sun, the ambient temperature outside, or a warm attic. Usually it’s some combination of the three. As described a couple minutes ago, this melted snow later refreezes because the outdoor temperatures drop below freezing, or because it hits your ice-cold overhangs or valleys or both.
You are in danger of creating ice dams any time your roof heats up to 32 degrees or higher. Usually this happens because you’ve got warm air leaks into your attic, or your insulation and/or ventilation is inadequate. When one of more of the above happens, your attic acts as an oven, and your shingles act as the surface of a stove.
You won’t be able to see a big puddle of melted snow on your roof: It’s hiding behind the ice dam, and you’re on the ground looking up. Even if you were to climb on your roof and have a look (which isn’t wise), snow will most likely have piled on top of the dammed-up water, making it virtually invisible. But the water is there, and the pool will grow until the ice dam is removed. It’s only a matter of time (hours, days, or weeks) until that water wiggles its way into your home.
What parts of North America have ice dams?
You’re most likely to get them if you’re in the Midwest or the Northeast.
In theory, ice dams can form anywhere it snows. (We’ve seen ice dams as far south as northern New Mexico, and as far west as Washington state.) But it’s rare to find them much farther west than Idaho and Nevada, or farther south than Colorado.
What problems do ice dams cause?
The trouble with leaks is they’re quiet and usually happen slowly. That’s why sometimes an ice dam can go unnoticed for weeks before water finds its way into your home. But if you leave it there you’re going to almost certainly get a leak unless fortune is on your side or all the snow and ice melts off your roof before Mother Nature dumps another blanket of snow on your roof.
You also risk structural damage by leaving all that snow and ice on your roof. Roofs do occasionally collapse (and more often than most people think) when you ask them to hold up several-thousand-pound blobs of wet snow and ice for weeks or months on end. They’re not Atlas.
How do I know if I have an ice dam?
The faster you can spot an ice dam, the less likely it is you’ll suffer a major leak.
First, look for icicles of any shape and size along the edge of your roof or gutters. Icicles (no matter the size) are a solid indicator that snow is melting on your roof and re-freezing on the overhangs. You now have all the ingredients for your least-favorite dish, cooked up by Old Man Winter himself: ice dams.
Icicles that look “dirty” can also mean that water is already seeping under your shingles. Dirty, nasty-looking icicles are never a good sign.
Icicles under the overhang (that is, on your soffits) are an especially bad sign. If you have icicles crawling out of your soffit vents, that’s a red flag that you already have leakage through your shingles and that you should act fast.
If you see ice exploding from the top of your gutters - like a hot blueberry muffin breaking free from the pan as its baked - that’s a bad sign. Any amount of ice in your gutters isn’t good, but when it rises past the top of your gutters, you should be concerned
Maybe you don’t have gutters, in which case you might want to look for a thick layer of ice right along the edge of your roof. If you can see several inches of ice buildup along your overhangs or valleys, you’ll probably want to get ice dam removal sooner rather than later. The alternative is to wait for your house to start leaking
Ice on your siding is a really troubling sign. If you see ice forming on your siding you have about 0-36 hours before your home almost certainly springs a leak. Get help right away.
Obviously, if you’ve got unusual wetness anywhere in your home you probably have an ice dam. (That, or maybe your dog is trying to tell you something.) Damp carpets, wet window frames, and water dripping on your head can all be signs that an ice dam has almost certainly formed somewhere overhead. Your home is trying to tell you that it simply can’t handle more ice damming. It’s waving the white flag.
How do I know when I’m likely to get an ice dam?
Poorly-insulated and poorly-ventilated homes are most likely to get ice dams. You should get an energy audit - including a blower-door test - of your home to determine the cause of your warm attic.
Another major concern is preventing hot air from flowing up into the attic through bypasses, which should be sealed.
In a discussion about ice dam prevention you’ll probably hear more about “inadequate insulation and ventilation” than you will about “sealing attic bypasses.” But if there’s one reason ice dams besiege most homes during the winter months, it’s that there are lots of little air leaks into the attic (i.e. attic bypasses). Death by a thousand cuts.
You’ll want to hire someone to plug up all the holes where heat might be escaping into your attic. For example, your outlets might be letting heat into the attic. In fact, any areas of your roof or walls that aren’t solid roof or solid walls can cause air leaks into your attic. I’m talking about attic hatches, wiring holes, plumbing pipes, vents, recessed lights, your furnace-flue plumbing pipes, light fixtures, exhaust fans, chimneys, etc. Anything that runs from your warm, heated house into the cold, unheated attic you need to make as airtight as possible. Remember, anything that penetrates your walls or ceilings is a potential air leak into your attic.
Homes with especially shallow inclined roofs seem to be a little more vulnerable, as are homes with lots of valleys or dormers built into the roof.
If you’ve had ice dams in the past you’ll probably get them again. As they say, there’s never just one cockroach.
If you’ve never had an ice dam before, by no means does that mean you won’t have one in the future. Thousands of unsuspecting homeowners find that out the hard way every year, after thinking, “We’ve lived here since the Jurassic and never had an ice dam.”
Your habits might be the best predictor of ice-dam woes. After a big snowstorm, do you put on your boots and go out to rake the snow off your roof - or do you put on your bunny slippers and rake mini-marshmallows into your hot cocoa? Prepared, proactive homeowners don’t get ice dams nearly as often.
What works for preventing ice dams?
There are three ways you can prevent ice dams.
Again, the first is to get that home energy audit. Improving your insulation and ventilation and sealing your attic bypasses is the best way to protect your home. And make certain your energy audit includes a blower-door test.
If your home is properly insulated, ventilated, and your bypasses are sealed, your attic won’t get too hot, which means there’s a good chance your roof won’t become a frozen hell.
Second, you can rake your roof. Like exercise, roof-raking isn’t always fun, but it’s effective. Purchase a really good roof rake in November, before all the good ones are sold. Make sure it’s either made of plastic, or if it’s an aluminum roof rake make sure it’s got small rollers that keep the metal edge from making direct contact with your shingles.
With your shiny new rake, stand on the ground and pull the snow off your roof as high as you can reach. Be warned: roof-raking from a ladder is dangerous business and should be left to a professional (someone who’s tumbled off more ladders than you have).
You don’t have to roof-rake every time there’s a dusting. Only bother if you’ve got at least 6 inches of snow up there. This 6-inch rule of thumb is just that: a rule of thumb. Don’t use it as an excuse to allow 3 inches of snow to sit on your roof for a month; an ice dam can sneak up on you as you sit inside and snuggle up to Friends reruns. A few inches of snow can cause an ice dam just as well as several feet of snow can. If you get a few inches of snow and you see more snow in the forecast over the next week, rake it after the storms have cleared.
If you’ve already let the snow and ice get beyond what a roof rake (or your arms) can do, then you probably need professional roof snow removal. You might also send in the cavalry if you just don’t have the time or energy to rake your roof. Professional roof snow removal companies will have the tools to get the job done safely. Most ice dam removal companies also offer roof snow removal services.
What does not work for preventing ice dams?
Cheap shortcuts don’t work
Heat cables are the most common mistake. Usually all they melt is a hole in your wallet. (Heat cables can add up to 20% to your energy bill, and even more in some cases.)
They can also cause ice dams. Remember: ice dams are caused primarily by hot roofs. Why would you try to prevent ice dams by making your roof hotter? In some select cases heat cable is your only option. For example, before opting for heat cables, make sure that you’ve at least hired a reputable contractor to seal any air leaks into your attic, and make certain that your insulation and ventilation are adequate. If you’ve done all you can, heat cables may be your only option, and they can work in certain situations. But be warned: even homes with heat cables get ice dams every winter.
People also try salt pucks. Those little honies can discolor your shingles, as well as kill the grass and shrubbery around your home. These risks might be acceptable if the reward was that they actually worked, but we’ve found them to be a complete waste of money and time. And that’s precious time that you could have used to have your ice dams professionally removed before they caused a leak in your home! At most these pucks might give you some temporary relief from leaking, but almost never will they remove enough ice to keep leaks away for good. (They’re very good at melting Coke-can-sized holes, though.) Don’t waste precious time, or your hard-earned money on these salt pucks or on similar gimmicks.
The same goes for salt-filled pantyhose - just in case you had too many beers and were seriously considering that particular “home remedy.” You’re just rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic.
What’s the proper way to remove ice dams?
There is only one way: steam.
You don’t want to use just pure hot water (that is, from a pressure washer). In the hands of someone inexperienced, there’s a strong possibility that most of that water will end up in your house, even if you get the ice dam off your roof. You’ll want to use some form of steam. Why? Because steam is less likely to cause additional leakage into your home, and, in the hands of a professional, it won’t damage your roof.
Of course, you need a steamer that was built in a steamer factory, by guys who merrily make steamers all day. As opposed to a jerry-rigged steamer. And boy, do some people try to jerry-rig.
We’ve seen people charge up their roofs armed with hair dryers just because they didn’t want to pay for ice dam removal. The water and electricity may not concern you if you’re in the habit of making toast while in the bathtub, but there’s still the ladder and the ice & snow-covered roof to worry about.
We’ve seen it all - bags of salt, hammers, hatchets, axes, and even gasoline.
Don’t be a statistic. Hire a fully insured professional with a steamer.
Should I try to remove the ice dam myself?
The only safe way to remove an ice dam is to get a trained professional up on your roof with - you guessed it - a steamer.
There are three ways to get rid of ice: blunt force, chemicals, and heat.
Blunt force can (and almost always does) damage your roof.
Chemicals can (and almost always does) damage or discolor your roof and/or the landscaping beneath your roof.
Most of the ways you could apply heat to the problem are inefficient or unsafe. People try everything, including pouring gasoline on the ice dam and lighting it on fire. Even Al Bundy might say that’s a bad idea. Please do not try that.
Safety would be an issue even if you could just buy a steamer on eBay. You probably don’t have the training to use it. Even a grizzled old pro can meet his maker in this industry. Don’t risk dying just to save a few dead presidents.
Let’s say you got your hands on a steamer and knew how to use it. There would still be a 99% chance you’d freeze it up in the middle of your ice-dam battle. Water and winter = ice. It takes a lot of experience to run a steamer without freezing up its innards and destroying it.
Your job as a homeowner is to do your due diligence at preventing ice dams, not at removing them. Once an ice dam has formed, you need to reach out to an ice dam removal professional. He and his steaming skills are the only safe way to remove that ice dam.
Will your insurance cover ice dam removal?
The answer is a firm “maybe.”
For the most part insurance companies don’t cover ice dam removal. You probably won’t find any such coverage in your policy. However, sometimes you can get them to cover some or all of your ice dam removal costs simply because they’d rather pay for ice dam removal than the damage caused to the inside of your home (which is typically far more expensive). Insurance companies generally only want to get involved once the roof is leaking. If you can reach out to them at the very first sign of a leak, and avoid any costly interior damage, there’s a chance they may foot the bill for prompt and professional ice dam removal.
Having a strong relationship with a great insurance adjuster can make a world of difference. This guy is going to have a big impact on what happens with your claim, so do whatever you can to get on this person’s good side.
It also helps if you can show your insurance company you were doing everything you could to keep ice dams from forming. If you can say, “Look, I have been raking my roof all winter and this was just a stroke of bad luck” you’re more likely to get attention. Show them your roof rake and complain of tennis elbow (and hide those bunny slippers).
It also helps if you haven’t had many claims with the insurance company in the past. You won’t have much luck if you’re that homeowner who’s calling once again.
Keep in mind that the best case in the world won’t always get your insurance company to pay for removing the entire ice dam. If there’s a leak they’ll often only pay to remove the portion of the ice dam that’s causing the roof to leak today. They may not pay for the rest of the ice that’s up on your roof, which means you could be looking at another roof leak days or weeks later. Their logic is, “one thing at a time.”
On the one hand, be happy if you can get any insurance money. On the other hand, try to push for as much help as you can, so that you minimize the chances of facing another roof leak (and possible repairs) a few days later.
A lot of people just wait until the leak happens, because they want insurance to foot the bill. But there are two problems with that: (1) the insurance company might outfox you and simply deny the claim, and (2) they probably won’t care much if your big-screen TV, sofa, and family-heirloom stamp collection get soaked.
You need to be prepared for ice dams if you live in ice dam country, and there’s no real benefit to waiting till the last minute just to try to shake some money out of the insurance companies. Keep in mind that nearly every claim raises your insurance rates anyway, so you might end up paying one way or another. The money might be a wash, so your job is to minimize leaks.
How much will ice dam removal cost?
Several hundred dollars an hour, and with most companies there’s a two-hour minimum. That may sound expensive, but once you take into account expensive (perhaps custom-built) equipment, insurance, and having to keep guys on-call every day of the winter, that’s what it comes out to.
In fact, if you aren’t being quoted a rate of at least $300-$500 an hour you’re probably about to get ripped off. The ice dam company is either neglecting to tell you they’re charging $150 per hour per technician and plan to send out multiple techs when just one would do, or they are cutting corners in a way that’s going to damage your roof, or leave you with another leak (and another check to write) days after they leave.
Cheap hourly rates are a red flag, as are free estimates (more about free estimates later). If you’ve found a company promoting rates less than $300 - $500 an hour, it’s likely that they’re not only inexperienced, but also that they’re not properly insured.
They may be insured, but not specifically for ice dam removal. If you were the insurance company, and your plumber fell off of an icy roof while steaming ice dams (not fixing leaky pipes in someone’s kitchen) and he ended up in intensive care for a month, would you pay the half-million-dollar claim? Nope. So even though Bob the plumber may be a great guy, he’s going to be forced into suing you for his medical bills, at the very least. And my bet is that after he’s done meeting with Johnnie Cochran’s long-lost brother who practices injury law, Bob will go for your jugular. “Buying cheap” could cost you the farm. Run, Forrest, run!
Be wary of any ice dam removal “professional” who tries to tell you he can get the ice off your roof in a predetermined amount of time (especially if it’s less than two hours). He’s planning on coming back to tell you the problem was so much bigger than he expected. But he knew from the start it wasn’t going to take him the hour and a half he quoted you. It can sometimes take an hour just to get set up and steaming. Look for companies that have at least a two-hour minimum. At least you know they’re up-front with you. It’s nearly impossible to remove an ice dam in less than 2 hours.
Hang up on anyone who tries to give you an estimate over the phone. Walk away from anyone willing to drive to your home and provide you with a free estimate. It is virtually impossible to tell how long ice dam removal will take without physically getting up on your roof, and removing the snow that is covering the ice dams. Even then it’s tough to give an accurate estimate. Again, the estimate-giver just wants to get his foot in the door. You’ll get a nice-sounding estimate that later vanishes like a pizza in a frat house.
There are some ways you can save money on ice dam removal, though. Being prepared for the appointment can save you several hundred dollars, if not more. (More detail on this under “What should you do to help the process go smoothly?” below.)
How do you pick an ice dam removal professional?
Anyone can hang his shingle and claim to be an ice dam removal expert. On the bandwagon are out-of-work contractors, gutter cleaners, roofers, men who smell money, and men who just plain smell. (Yes, it’s an all-male industry - who else would try hatchets, torches, and gasoline on an ice dam?)
Avoid these types. Watch for low rates (see above), free estimates, and promises to remove ice dams within a certain number of hours before the company has even seen the ice dam under the snow (which would require some rooftop snow removal).
Next, you want to check on the type of equipment they plan to use. Ask how they remove their ice dams. Are they using steamers? Or Bronze Age tools? Many so-called ice dam removal companies keep their rates low by refusing to invest in steamers and the professionals needed to run them. It’s much easier and cheaper to find a descendent of Fred Flintstone who can whack ice with a hammer.
Check on their insurance policies, too. Don’t just ask if they “have insurance.” They’ll just say “yes,” of course. Make sure they have a general-liability policy with the words “ice dam” somewhere on it, so you’re not left wide-open to a lawsuit.
Next, check to see if they’re actually an ice dam removal company. Poke around their website. Is there plenty of info, or is it just “Home, About, Services?” Is there an ice-dam-related website name and email address? Does the “About” page talk about ice dam removal, or does it talk about how the “professional” has 20 years of experience…in roofing, construction, or laying asphalt?
Really dig into the info on the site, too. It matters. Why? Because a true ice dam removal professional will work hard to help you make educated and sound decisions. Give before you get.
Check reviews. Simply Google the name of the company and see what comes up. Find out if the company has treated its customers well. See if there are stories of busted roofs and damaged homes. If the ice dam company has treated other people badly you’re probably not going to get treated much better.
Look at the Better Business Bureau rating, too, and make sure the company has been around long enough for that BBB rating to actually mean something. Everyone starts out with an A+ rating on the BBB.
You can ignore - or at least take with a grain of salt - any reviews or customer testimonials on the company website. Anyone can write those for his or her own company. Look for trusted reviews that can be found on third-party review sites, like Angies List, BBB, Yelp, Google, Houzz, and others.
Once you’ve made a decision, stick with it. If an ice dam is causing a leak in your house, it’s probably safe to say that ice dams are causing leaks in houses all over town. That probably means phones are ringing off the hooks for anyone (good or bad) who offers ice dam removal.
Do your research before you even pick up the phone. Once you’ve decided on your shortlist of candidates, go ahead and make some calls. If you’re lucky enough to get one of those companies on the phone, go ahead and ask them a few important questions that you need answered:
- When is the soonest they can get to your house?
- How much do they charge per hour?
- Do they have a minimum charge?
- Do they use steam?
- Are they properly insured for ice dam removal, and can they provide you with a certificate of insurance that at the very least has the words “ice dam” somewhere on it? If they even stutter, move on.
- Last but not least, a question that may flush out the greenhorns: Ask the question exactly like this: “I’m assuming that you’ll need access to water, but what if my water spigot is frozen?” The ONLY correct answer to this question is “We’ll thaw it using a heat gun, no problem.” If they say “We’ll thaw it with a small propane torch,” hang up! Anyone using an open flame on a house either is very green, a scammer, or just doesn’t care about your home or the potential consequences of using open flame on the exterior of your home.
So…assuming they answered all the questions to your liking, and you have an all-around good gut feeling about them, make an appointment and stick with it. Good ice dam companies fill up fast, and getting them to answer the phone can be a chore, believe it or not. They may be getting hundreds of calls and emails every hour. If possible, just book and appointment while you’ve got them on the phone.
What should you do to help the process go smoothly?
The job actually begins with snow shovels. The ice dam removal guys will have to remove as much snow as possible, so that all the steam goes to melting the ice and not the snow. Although that takes time and therefore costs money, it’s far more efficient than trying to steam away that snow - which would be madness. (Plenty of ice dam companies out there do this.) Shoveling snow from your roof saves you money. Don’t be upset with an ice dam company charging you steaming rates for shoveling; they’re actually saving you money. If they were dishonest they’d waste their steam on the snow and charge you through nose for their laziness.
Want to save even more? Grab your roof rake and give those triceps a workout before the ice dam guys show up. The more snow you rake off your roof, the less snow they’ll have to charge you to remove.
Next, move your vehicles. Take them out of your garage and park them on the street (or at least away from your garage, alongside your driveway) so you can access them during the ice dam removal process without interfering. You do not want to pay your technician for the time it takes to unhook all his equipment, move all his stuff, and get set up once more - just because you had to go buy 2% milk in the middle of the job.
Remember, the only reason the steamer doesn’t freeze up with ice is that the operator is constantly moving water through the machine. Flowing water doesn’t freeze. Should your technician stop to move his ladder or truck out of your way, he’ll have to go through the arduous process of unfreezing his steamer. That’s why you really don’t want to interrupt him - unless you see a comet streaking its way through the sky and toward your home, perhaps.
Move any patio furniture or anything under the roof that you don’t want squashed. Ice dam pros don’t melt your ice dam from the top-down; they remove large chunks of ice at a time. Of course, these drop to the ground and can crush anything they land on. It’s possible to control where these ice chunks fall, but ice can be a fickle mistress and it typically falls where it wants to. If your stuff is buried under several feet of snow, the man on the roof won’t even know it’s there. A good rule of thumb is if it’s located anywhere under the overhangs of your roof, relocate it. Although your technician will most certainly be happy to do it for you, remember that he’ll be “on the clock,” and that will cost you extra.
Water is the next issue. You need to know where the outdoor spigot is, and you also need to know where the shutoff valve is inside your home for that particular spigot. Knowing where an outdoor outlet is and clearing a path to it, as well as clearing a path to your spigot, can help save time and money as well. Your ice dam removal technician will need water to make steam, and he may need an electrical outlet to thaw your spigot if it’s frozen.
Your ice dam technician will be happy to untie his boots and thaw inside the toasty house while looking for the shutoff valve himself, but again, you’re paying for that time. Also, most ice dam technicians are not plumbers, and may have to guess which valve is the right one to flip.
Chances are the spigot will be frozen and will need to be thawed. Your tech can do that with his heat gun, or you might try to thaw the frozen spigot from the inside your home with nothing more than a hairdryer. (Note: If your tech whips out his propane torch to thaw your frozen spigot, send him packing!) An open flame and wooden homes don’t mix.
Finally, make sure you’ve got your payment method handy. Most ice dam professionals won’t leave your house until they get paid - and most continue to charge you while they’re sitting in your driveway waiting for you to return home with payment, answer their phone call, etc. Remember, ice dam removal is almost always an emergency-based business, and your ice dam guy risked his limbs up there. So as long as his inglorious ice ambulance is parked in your driveway and not at the next home that needs emergency help, you’re probably being charged.
The more of the above advice you take, the more time and money you’ll save.
What should I do if the house is actively leaking?
You’ll need to get that ice dam removed as soon as humanly possible. The leak won’t just go away. It may seem to stop temporarily as temperatures plunge in the night, but depending on the temperature the following day, it may be back in full force by high noon. Let the sheriff handle it: Call an ice dam removal professional.
Once you’ve made your appointment it’s a matter of dealing with the leak until they get to you. You’ll need to throw down some towels and buckets to collect the water. You’ll also need to change the towels and empty the buckets as needed
You’ll also want to blast as many fans as you can. Keep that air moving. You’re trying to evaporate as much water as possible. A few fans can help mitigate the damage surprisingly well. They can help dry out waterlogged carpets, soaked sheetrock, wet trim panels, etc. Waterlogged anything can (and often does) create breeding grounds for mold and mildew.
Just don’t haul out space heaters, though. Space heaters won’t evaporate the water as well as a fan will. Also, putting those hot electrical coils in anywhere near water is like taking a bath with your hairdryer.
Next, turn the heat down. Turn it as low as you can tolerate (within reason: save the cryogenic freezing for Ted Williams). You want to cool down the attic if possible. By turning the heat down, you might give that melted ice up on your roof a chance to refreeze until we get there so you’re not standing in the middle of your very own indoor pool while you wait for help to arrive. Minimize the heat, minimize the leak.
Now go on a hunt for visibly soggy sheetrock. You’ll want to poke or drill a little hole in it. You can use nails or drill bits. You can use a metal skewer if you have one. You don’t want to use anything bigger than 1/8th of an inch in diameter, but you won’t have to: Wet sheetrock is easy to push through. This may very well save your drywall from collapsing and landing in your lasagna at the dinner table. Then place a bucket under the hole, to collect water.
Your decision: should you wait, or should you get ice dam removal now?
You’ve got to choose between some pain now and potentially much more pain later. It’s wise to call a qualified ice dam pro before you have an emergency. You’ll prevent costly post-leak repairs, and you won’t have to deal with the stress of a leaky home.
By now you’ve read all about ice dams. You know what you can do for prevention, and you know how to spot trouble brewing. Wouldn’t you rather get help when the problem is smaller and easier to squash?
Now, if ice dam season is almost over, maybe you can take your chances. Ice dam season tends to run from as early as December through late March (and sometimes into early April).
Keeping a close eye on the weather forecast can help determine your next move. Daytime highs don’t matter too much. It’s the nighttime lows that you really care about. Even if it’s warm (i.e. above freezing) during the day, if there’s a chance that melted snow can still refreeze at night you are not out of the woods. And if it’s still in the middle of the season, you probably won’t be lucky enough to get mild weather that lasts for the rest of the winter. It behooves you to call an ice dam removal pro and rid yourself of ice dams before they cause serious leaks and damage to the interior of your home.
If it’s mid-March or later you might be able to win a staring contest with your ice dam. But keep in mind the season is not over until the nighttime temperatures are higher than 32 degrees for about 7 days straight. It’s also not over until the snow has completely stopped and/or there is no more snow left on your roof. The Easter Bunny is a pretty reliable indicator that the ice dam season is over.
Ready to remove the ice dam before the roof leaks? Click here.
Who Are We?
We’re experts on ice dams. We’ve been removing them every winter since about 1996. We’re the Ice Dam Guys, the top-rated ice dam company in the US, and we can personally help if you would like to hire us. (You can call us at the number below.)
But that’s not what this site is about. Our goal is to prepare you for ice dam season - or help you deal with it if you’re in the middle of it. We want to help you protect your home from ice dams.
You’ll find plenty of info here - right here on this page - on how to do that. You might say that we’ve put together this website so that you never have to call an ice dam removal company.
Ice and snow are a part of life, and there is almost no such thing as ice-dam immunity. You may be painfully aware of that if you live in the Midwest, or in the Northeast, or in the Rockies, or in another frosty region. Mother Nature plays a big role in whether or not ice dams form. Not educating yourself on ice dams is a good way to end up spending a lot of money on repairs, simply because you didn’t understand what to look for or when to act.