Since ice dams are the furthest things from our minds in the summer, most people battle ice dams in the winter. Unfortunately your options at this point are limited, at least the safe ones. But there are still some effective actions you can take.
Here are some recommendations on how to beat ice dams in the winter:
- Act fast with a roof rake during a heavy snow: As I mentioned earlier, ice dams happen quickly after a heavy snow because of the insulating properties of snow. If you can get out and rake your roof with a special tool called a roof rake to remove at least the lower 4 feet of snow from the roof edge, you’ll do a lot to prevent the ice dams from even forming. A roof rake is like a shovel that is turned on its side so that you can pull snow off the roof toward you. It has a long handle about 16 to 21 feet long, and is safer than many other approaches since you use the tool from the ground, not on a ladder.
- Calcium chloride or ice melt product: If you have an ice dam forming, one action you can take is to put a calcium chloride or similar product on the ice. (Forget any urban legends you may have heard about putting salt in pantyhose, it does not work well, takes a lot more salt and results in the pantyhose ripping apart). When you put the calcium chloride directly on the ice, be careful if you are on a ladder, icy conditions and ladder usage are not recommended so please be careful.
Calcium chloride or ice melt product
- Professional ice dam removal: If you end up with an ice dam and need it removed, you always have the ultimate tool in a toolbox, your checkbook. There are professional companies available that are insured and will remove your ice dam using professional equipment such as high pressure steam. Although this approach may cost a few hundred dollars, the prevention of damage to your home may be significant.
Some tools and approaches to ice dam removal are often discussed but are also very dangerous. I do not recommend any of these approaches because of risk of damage to your life and your home. Please do not try to remove an ice dam with any of these approaches. THEY ARE NOT SAFE!
- Hatchet or axe
- Ice pick or screwdriver
- Propane torch or heat gun
- Hammer and chisel
- Duct tape (OK, well I’m not actually aware of this being used but I figured someone tried it somewhere…)