The Dos and Don’ts of Removing Ice Dams from Your Roof

ice dam

During the cold climates in winter, the freezing temperatures take a toll on the roof of a house. Coupled with ice dams, which often appear in heavy snowfall, they threaten the integrity of the shingles, roof eaves, and gutters.

Ice dams form at the edge of the roof and prevent melting water from snow from draining. An ice dam forms when ice accumulates on the roof and snow melts due to heat radiating from the attic. The melted water trickles to the gutters, and at the freezing point when exposed to cold air, it freezes forming a solid mass along the roof edge. The water backs up under the shingles and can leak into a home, causing damage.

One of the first signs that you have an ice dam is the icicles on the roof. These usually indicate that your gutters are full and the water has nowhere to drain. If you see these, check for water stains on the ceiling, floor, or the sides of the walls.

What damage do ice dams do

The frozen beauty of the overhanging icicles can deter you from the damage the ice dam problem and water could be causing. If you do not treat the problem, when the ice dams break free, they can loosen shingles, tear off gutters, and lead to water backing up and draining into your home. This damages the interior and exterior walls.

The falling ice dam damages anything it lands on such as window sills, pets, cars, and even people. Once the water gets under the roof, it seeps through insulation, ceilings, and walls, causing the paint to peel off, develop stains, and lead the ceilings to sag and floors to warp. The moisture can lead to the formation of ice dams, which lead to mold and mildew growth. These cause respiratory problems.

How to remove ice dams


While it’s tempting to attack an ice dam with vigor, you can end up causing more harm to the structure. Using a shovel is not effective and due to the weight, it may cause you to lose your balance on the roof, resulting in a serious fall. A hammer on the other hand can damage gutters and shingles. Avoid getting up to the roof when there is snow outside, due to the risk of slips and falls. Forget the use of salt as may have been advised as it does not work very well, wastes salt, and can lead to damage to plants at the bottom as the ice melts.


Start by ensuring your personal safety before climbing up the roof. Check that all your equipment is in order and get someone to stand by and look out for you in the event of an emergency. Before venturing up an extension ladder, start by raking the roof. A roof rake can clear snow and eliminate water that has built up. When using the snow rake, place light pressure to avoid scrapping the shingles.

Thereafter, if the ice dam is not too high to safely reach, you can use a rubber mallet to slowly break the ice dam into smaller chunks. For any remaining snow, use a mixture of calcium chloride to lay on the ice dam. This mix melts the ice without causing damage to roof materials. It is not necessarily complete ice dam removal since opening up a channel is enough to allow the meltwater to flow off the roof. This is only a temporary solution because within a few days the channel will become filled with ice and restore the ice dam.

Ice dam prevention

While the above methods treat the symptoms, the underlying problem which is a warm attic and roof temperature needs to be addressed to prevent continual ice dam formation. Ice dams can be prevented by controlling the heat loss from the home. To prevent a recurrence, employ simple thermal physics by maintaining the air in the attic from heating up thus keeping warm air at bay. A cold roof equals controlled ice dam problems. This is generally taken care of through proper ventilation systems. Houses with good attic ventilation generally do not suffer from ice dams because they keep the cold outside air circulating in the attic, keeping the temperatures of the roof surface low, hence preventing the snow layer on the roof from melting, arresting ice dams even before they start.

In addition to adequate attic ventilation, insulating the space under the attic can help to lower temperatures against the deck. Seal air channels and gaps that may appear on plumbing pipes that can be a source of heat flow into the attic. Insulation done in conjunction with improved ventilation is highly effective both in preventing ice dams and in the reduction of energy costs.

Keep vents and gutters free from leaves and debris to prevent melting snow from accumulating, undergo the melting-freezing cycle, and form ice dams. This can be done before the snow comes as a preventative measure.

Building codes in new constructions dictate that effective insulation and a continuous air barrier should be installed to prevent ice dam formation.

Call the roofing Professional

Need help dealing with Ice dam water damage in the Denver area? We’re here to help. When the ice dam build-up is too much to handle on your own, the solution is to call Hot Edge for our specialized services.

At Hot edge, we understand how destructive ice build-up, ice dams, and icicle formations can be to your roof and property.  Our team of professionals offers de-icing, insulation, ventilation, ice dam removal, inspection, and maintenance services during the winter using special equipment and leading accredited roof ice melt systems. Schedule a consultation at (303) 578-4992, or email one of our agents at to address all your concerns.


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