How to Safely Remove an Ice Dam
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How to Safely Remove an Ice Dam

This article shows the homeowner how to remove an ice dam after it has formed to reduce the chance of water damage to your home.

An ice dam is a layer of ice that forms at the edge of a roof which traps melting snow from draining off the roof. As the water refreezes and melts behind the ice dam, water trapped behind the dam can seep under the roof shingles and damage the attic insulation, ceilings, and walls.

An ice dam will form when warm air inside your home leaks into the attic and warms the underside of the roof causing snow and ice on the roof to melt and drain down to the roofs eaves. As the water reaches the colder roof eave, it can refreeze and form a block of ice.

While stopping the air leaks in the attic is important to stopping the formation of ice dams, you may have to remove an ice dam in some circumstances.

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Preventing Ice Dams from Forming

The best way to prevent ice dams from forming is to remove as much snow from the roof as possible. This may not be practical depending on the amount of snow and your physical condition.

CAUTION: Never walk on a snow covered roof under any circumstance. Tie off the ladder to the house at some point. Make sure that the ladder is imbedded in snow or pack snow around the base to anchor it. Have a helper hold the ladder for you. If possible, use ladder stand offs to keep the ladder off of irregular blocks of ice.


Ladder with stand off.


Roof Rake

Before a heavy snowfall is expected, make sure that your gutters are clean and free of debris and leaves which will impede the flow of water off the roof.

1. From the ground remove as much snow as possible with a roof rake.

2. If water is leaking into the home you will need to cut channels through the ice dam allows the water behind the dam to drain off the roof. A good technique to do this is to fill a pair of panty hose or a large sock with snow melt and set it over the ice dam.

Snow melt filled sock or panty hose leg

If you cannot wait for the snow melt to work, you will need to carefully climb a ladder near the ice dam and chip away the ice in several places, every 3 feet is best.

3. Clear away as much snow as possible from any soffit or gable vents to promote airflow through the attic.

Removing an Ice Dam




Hammer or pry bar

Snow Shovel

Dress appropriately when working outside in freezing temperatures.

1. Ladder placement - Make sure that the bottom of the ladder is secure against the house before climbing on it. Set the ladder where the ice dam is, climb up the ladder slowly and carefully. You want to climb as high as possible while staying on the ladder to see the ice dam.

2. Break up the ice dam using a hammer or other tool. Be careful not to try to force the ice off of the roof as the ladder can shift and you may fall. Gently chip away a channel in the ice dam and allow the pieces of ice to fall off the roof.

3. With a snow shovel, remove as much snow from behind the ice dam as possible while staying on the ladder. Removing the snow will reduce the formation of water until the ice melts.


4. Check the roof – An ice dam can reform if the temperatures remain around freezing or there is additional snowfall. Periodically check the roof to make sure that the ice dam has not reformed.

Inspect the attic and seal air leaks or add additional insulation as soon as possible.


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Comments (2)

I had and regularly used my roof rake when I lived in Montana for 30 years. Your expert instructions are most helpful.

Very timely information.