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Stopping Ice Dams: 6 Proven Strategies

Stopping Ice Dams: 6 Proven Strategies

Stopping Ice Dams

When time comes to cozy up next to your fireplace tucked away in a warm blanket, the fear of roofing damage is the last thing you want to think about. Among the many frustrations of winter, ice dams are included. Luckily, there are many ways to prevent ice dams from ruining your cozy winter.

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What are ice dams

Ice dams and icicles are the result of melting snow from the center of your roof falling and re-freezing at the edge of a roof.  Just because the outdoor temperatures are less than freezing, does not mean the section of the roof that is warm (commonly an attic) will not melt it. This ridge of ice prevents water/ melting snow from properly draining off the roof.

This water could get backed up causing serious damage to your roof, ceilings and walls. Additionally, shingles could possibly become lose or crack. By preventing the formation of ice dams, you are saving your home a great deal.

It is important to note that more complex roof designs, skylights, heating ducts, and recessed lights all pose an increase in the risk for formation of dams

Damages that ice dams cause


  • Cracked shingles
  • Loosened shingles
  • Gutter detachment



  • Flooding
  • Mold/mildew
  • Warped floors
  • Stained ceilings

How to prevent ice dams

Clean your gutters

Prevention of ice dams start early. In the fall months, clearing the sticks, leaves, and other debris from your gutters would be easiest.

The reason this helps prevent ice dams is because there is a clear pathway for the melting snow to travel off of your roof.

Seal leaking air

During the winter, so long as your furnace is functioning, air is regulated throughout the house. Too much heating needs to be avoided in the attic. This is what causes the snow to melt on the roof and therefore creating a larger possibility for ice dams. Therefore, gaps that could allow warm air to leak into the attic should be sealed along with the covering between the roof and chimney. 

What to do if the roof is bad

The simplest solution for ice dams would be considered the snow rake. This is an aluminum scraper on an extendable pole. 

Hardware stores are very likely to carry snow rakes and the price range is between $40.00-$90.00.

If after a significant snow fall you pull the snow down, the prevention of ice dams is guaranteed. It is a tedious but satisfying process. At any amount of snow it could be handy but especially at 6 inches. Use the rake to pull down snow 3-4 feet from the edge.

WARNING: DO NOT use a snow rake while on a ladder.

A majority of hardware stores should carry a snow rake and remember to be careful not to damage shingles!

(Family Handyman)

Ensure proper insulation & ventilation of the attic

The ideal roof temperature is below 30° F during the winter. There are certain systems in place to maintain that temperature such as the insulation. Check for gaps the rafters or floor.

 Adequate ventilation comes with more than just protection from ice dams such as better air quality. Upgrading soffit systems is one tried and true way to compensate for poor ventilation.

There is always the option to hire an expert to analyze the energy efficiency of your home.

Install heat cables

Though an addition with more energy usage, heating cables are a long-term solution to ice dams.

These cables are placed so that water cannot freeze in the most common and problematic areas.

Be aware that there are options for heating cables like ones you can turn on and off when needed. 

Invest in ice dam prevention materials

Like one may assume, products are available to aid in the melting of ice. By using a natural ice melt that lacks chloride, you can effectively get rid of snow. 

 Important: One should avoid products that could harm shingles such as rock salt.

Calcium Chloride melts: If you buy the kind meant for roof tops specifically, these pellets can be placed & accurately carefully with a ladder, or a safer option would be to throw them.

Ice belts: Placed to aid soffits, these strips of aluminum are used best to protect certain spots. They may be lined along panel edging.

How to remove an ice dam

While the best thing to do in winter is to prevent ice dams, sometimes it is too late.  If there are no signs of leaking in the attic, ceilings, or soffits, there is a possibility you are in the clear.

However, if you want to play it safe, you can contact a roofing company to remove them.  

It is important that you DO NOT break ice off with a pick or shovel as this could cause damages to the shingles. 


Working on the roof in winter conditions is a risk for major injury. Clearing dams on a roof is reccomended to be carried out by a professional with the proper equipment. 


Wintertime is not the time you want to be worrying about roofing leaks or damage. Ice dam removal is a big headache and can be avoided. Partake in the necessary preventions to care for your home or you could always…

Play it safe and contact T-10 Construction for any winter roofing concerns.