In an effort to make this site as thorough as possible we’ve compiled a list of some of the most common questions we get as ice dam removal professionals.
How soon can an ice dam removal pro get here?
You’ll want to ask for same-day or next-day services.
What determines which one you can get? How soon you call, how busy the ice dam removal people are, and how close to them you live.
Often the biggest speedbump is the number of calls an ice dam company gets. If your home is leaking there’s a good chance hundreds or thousands of other homes in your area are leaking at about the same time. The best way to get the fastest service is to call as soon as you know there’s an ice dam, rather than waiting for the leak to appear.
How long does ice dam removal take?
We’ll just speak from personal experience, rather than try to answer in the abstract:
We’ve seen jobs take 2 hours, and we have seen jobs take 30 hours. We just don’t know until an ice dam guy has come to your house, removed the snow that covering the vast majority of your ice dam(s), and taken a good look at it/them. And even then, we can only really give you a “guesstimate.”
All ice is not created equal. There’s black, hard ice frozen solid to your shingles. There’s white, soft ice that has a honeycomb texture and is loosely frozen to your shingles. Then there are many varieties of ice somewhere in-between.
Even during the job, ice can change character. Ice that was easy to remove in the afternoon can become tougher to remove as it cools down in the evening. Ice that was 4 inches thick along the south-facing overhang can becomes 12 inches thick on the north-facing overhang.
There is no way to remove an ice dam in less than 2 hours, which is why we have a firm two-hour minimum on every job. Companies that have no minimum charge aren’t doing you any favors. They’re just stringing you along until they hand you the invoice.
When you call we’re happy to give you the current average job time based on the jobs we’ve already done this winter. You might be luckier than average, or you might be unlucky. There’s no way to know. The average figure generally hovers around 3-4 hours per job. That number is based on our 16+ years of ice dam removal experience, but you shouldn’t count on your job being “average.”
If you want to increase your odds of being one of the lucky ones there are things you can do. Call an ice dam company early – before there’s a leak. Make sure your water is on and that there’s a clear path to your outdoor spigot and electrical outlet. Move your car out of your garage and into the street (if possible). This can save as much as 30-60 minutes of time spent on the clock if it prevents us from having to shut down our entire operation to move our truck out of your way.
Why do some companies have a two hour minimum?
In most instances there are car-sized chunks of ice on your roof, and removing them takes time. The ice dam company also has to set up all the equipment, get everything hooked up to an external water source, and set up the ladders. They’ll need to do a fair amount of grueling snow removal before they can even start steaming the ice dam. They could steam the snow, too, but that would take even longer, and you’d pay even more.
Why won’t the reputable companies give me a free estimate?
Until they are up on your roof physically looking at your ice dam, there’s no way to guess how long the job will take. And even looking isn’t enough, since ice dams are usually covered in a thick layer of snow. This means they’ll have to shovel all the snow off of the ice dam.
Then they can see what type of ice it is and how extensive the ice dam is. Once they know that, they will come down the ladder long enough to tell you what they’ve found out. And even then, sometimes it’s tough to know what type of ice you’re dealing with (and how well it’s adhered to your shingles) until your technician actually begins steaming.
Companies who promise they can have your ice dam off your roof within a certain amount of time are lying to you. They’re going to say, “Yeah, should take us about 2 hours.” Then they’ll get off your roof and say, “Oh, we didn’t realize it was black ice…looks like we’ll be up there for 8 hours.” And because you’ve got an emergency situation you’ll probably pay those rates, no matter how exorbitant they are, or how far they are from the original estimate. If you can’t, well, now you’ve paid for a job which is only partly complete, which means your home is still in danger. These scammers know exactly what they’re doing. They’re taking advantage of your situation and trust.
Alternatively, these people will get the job done in their promised minimum…by taking shortcuts that may damage your roof.
Must they use steam?
Yes. Steam is the only safe way to remove ice dams. Anything else would be irresponsible.
Don’t pay an ice dam company that won’t pay for the right tools. It’s the difference between removing an ice dam and removing pieces of your roof. Caveat emptor.
Do I have to be on-site during my ice dam removal?
Not necessarily. But you should try to be there.
It’s a good idea to watch the leaks. Although it’s unusual, sometimes ice dam removal can temporarily increase the flow of a leak. Having someone around to throw down some more buckets and towels can spare your home some damage. You probably won’t enjoy it, but it beats having to pay for repairs or new furniture.
It’s also cheaper for you if you can be on hand to show the ice dam removal guy where the water is, to turn it on, and to find the plugs. You can’t make much steam without water.
Communication between technician and homeowner is much better when both parties are face-to-face. When you’re paying several hundreds of dollars an hour for ice dam removal, communication is everything. Some simple miscommunication could cost you hundreds (if not a thousand dollars or more) of extra work performed that you didn’t want done.
It also makes billing a lot easier, if both parties are under the same roof when the job is done.
It’s also for those reasons that business owners may be charged more if their business is closed when the ice dam removal happens. Things just tend to move more smoothly when you’re present.
Hey, the leak stopped! I’m in the clear, right?
No. The leak is almost certainly on its way back. It’s temporarily gotten cold enough in the night (or even in the daytime) to freeze the little pool of water that’s causing your leak. Leaks don’t just go away. Be glad you’re getting a break from bucket and towel duty, but call an ice dam removal professional right away.
I have an irrigation system. Does this matter?
Yes: it adds an extra step to your prep for ice dam removal.
If you have an irrigation system it’s a good idea to call your irrigation contractor to let him know you’re about to turn on the water for the steamers. He’ll be able to tell you if you need to adjust any valves or dials, or if you need to use a different spigot.
If you don’t check, there’s a chance your irrigation system may be attached directly to your spigot. This means the ice dam guy is about to run water through your delicate irrigation pipes in the dead of winter. He will have no way of knowing about your irrigation system, so if you don’t want burst pipes and thousands of dollars in repairs it’s a good idea to make that call before he arrives.
Didn’t see the answer to your question? Check out our giant homepage – nicknamed Everything You Need to Know about Ice Dams – if you haven’t already.
Still didn’t get your answer? Ask us!