Get Rid Of Ice Dams: Real Causes, Removal & Prevention

Posted on December 21, 2022

Estimated Reading Time : 7 Min.

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Ice Dam

Ice dams can be a major headache for homeowners. Not only can they damage the roof of a home and cause leaks, but they can also be difficult and dangerous to remove. If you’re tired of dealing with ice dams on your roof and gutters, we are here with a helpful guide to help you get rid of them.

At OConnor Contracting, we’ve been helping people take care of their homes for years. In this blog post, we’ll cover the most effective methods of ice dam removal and prevention, so you can keep your home secure and damage-free all winter long.

Whether you’re a homeowner tackling this yourself or looking to hire a professional, reading this guide will help you get rid of ice dams once and for all.

First, you’ll need to understand what ice dams are and why they occur in the first place.

What Is An Ice Dam?

An ice dam is a pile of ice that forms along the edges of your roof, usually at the gutter line. Ice dams happen when there’s a lot of snow on your roof. Here’s how these bulky ice chunks develop:

Your home and roof are generally warmer than the outside atmosphere, and warm air naturally moves upwards. So when it does, the heat trapped around the peak of your roof heats up and melts the snow that’s present on the roof. The melted snow or water flows down the roof and freezes again as it reaches the roof’s edge. The refreezing happens because the temperature outside is below freezing point, and the roofline is colder than the rest of the roof.

As more snow and ice accumulate on top of an ice dam, it grows bigger and bigger, posing a serious risk of damage to your roof, attic, gutters, and even your home’s foundation. You must take proper measures to remove these ice dams and ensure this doesn’t happen next winter.

While reading, you may have asked yourself if gutter guards cause ice dams, or if it’s the gutter channels that are aiding the formation of ice dams themselves. So we will now answer this question.

Ice Dam

Do Gutter Guards Cause Ice Dams?

The answer is a big no. Gutter guards don’t cause ice dams, and the opposite happens. The function of gutter guards is to keep the gutter channels clean and unclogged so the water flows easily through them. This is extremely helpful during ice dam removal. Without the guards, the gutter channels get clogged with debris and leaves, preventing melted snow from flowing down the gutters and away from your house.

So if gutters guards don’t cause ice dams, what does? How do you deal with the issue of melting snow and refreezing? Let’s look into it by understanding the real causes of ice dams. This will help you understand the prevention and removal of ice dams more easily.

What Causes Ice Dams On Roofs & Gutters?

The ice dam on your roof is most likely related to roofing problems. Ice dams on roofs and gutters can be caused by a combination of factors, like the design and construction of the roof, the type of insulation used, and the presence of external heat sources. One of the primary causes of ice dams is the imbalance of temperature across the roof.

  • Poor roof design or construction: Roofs with a steep pitch or those that are not properly sealed can be more prone to ice dams. To find out about a roofing mistake, you must take advantage of a free roof inspection offered by a reliable roofing contractor.
  • External heat sources: Chimneys, skylights, and other sources of heat on the roof can cause the snow to melt, leading to ice dams.
  • Temperature Changes: Ice dams are more likely to form when a cycle of warmer days and below-freezing nights occurs repeatedly.
  • Clogged gutters: If the gutter channels are clogged with debris, melting snow may not drain properly, leading to ice dam formation.

So here are some of the most convenient methods to banish these pesky winter hazards from your home.

How To Remove Ice Dams

The best course of action is to hire a skilled residential roofing contractor to remove ice dams. Select a roofer with good experience, the correct equipment, and excellent reviews to ensure the safety and effectiveness of their work. Below are some standard methods to remove ice dams that many homeowners and roofers use:

Roof Rake

A roof rake is a tool with a long handle and a blade that can be used to scrape snow and ice off the roof. This method is used to remove small amounts of ice and snow, but we don’t recommend it if you aren’t a specialist. It should be done carefully by an experienced and insured roofer to avoid damaging the roof. If you are not careful enough, the blades can scratch, cut or break the shingles, allowing the water to slip behind.

Homemade Ice Remedies

You can find many ice-melting products in your homes, such as calcium chloride and potassium chloride. These products work by lowering the freezing point of water, causing the ice to melt and flow off the roof. You can also buy calcium chloride pellets and fill a sock or with them. Place this sock on the ice dams using a roof rake and watch it do its job.

Heat Cables

The ice dam heat cables are also known as heating wires or blankets that can be attached to the shingles, roofline, or gutters. These heating cords are widely used by homeowners to melt snow and ice dams on their roofs. These handy and affordable products use electricity or a battery to heat up quickly and do their work.

Steam Machine

A steam machine generates a jet of hot vapor that melts the ice dam. This method is very effective but may be more time consuming and expensive than other methods. Moreover, such tools must be operated by authorized personnel.

Be cautious when removing ice dams from a roof, as standing on a slippery, icy surface can be dangerous. It’s imperative to be cautious as these methods can also damage the roof and gutters if not used correctly. While you may want to save your funds, ice dam removal costs are mostly affordable.

Ice Dam Removal Cost

On average, you can expect to pay anywhere from $400 to $700 for ice dam removal. The costs generally vary depending on a number of factors, including the size and complexity of the ice dams, your location, and the availability of roofing contractors in the area. If you spot any damage after the ice dams have been removed, it’s also wise to get them repaired on the spot before the issues worsen.

After you’ve removed these chunks, be ready to prepare for ice dam prevention. After all, you wouldn’t want these stubborn dams and icicles to build up again. So you must take proper measures to get rid of them for good.

How To Prevent Ice Dams On A Roof

Timely roof repairs and regular maintenance play a huge role in preventing ice dams. This ensures proper attic insulation, roof ventilation, sealing any gaps or cracks, and keeping the drains clear of debris.

Insulate Your Attic Properly

Proper insulation in your attic will stop the warm air in your home and attic from escaping through the roof. This will help to prevent the snow on your roof from melting and refreezing. Roofing contractors mostly use spray foam insulation to seal tight areas in the attic, and fiberglass mats to insulate the rafters, walls, and floor of the attic.

Ventilate Your Attic

Ventilation will ensure the right amount of air circulation in the attic space. Roof vents work to prevent the build-up of heat and moisture in the first place, so nothing escapes from above. The most beneficial ventilation system is a combination of ridge vents and soffit vents. If you already have them, call a reliable local roofing contractor for an inspection to check if they are functioning correctly.

Keep The Gutter System Clean

Clogged gutters and downspouts can push the water back up and pool on your roof, leading to ice dams. Make sure to keep your gutters clean and in good shape to help prevent this from happening. You can do this by installing gutter guards and making sure they are cleaned regularly.

If you find more ice and snow accumulating inside the gutters and realize that the downspouts are also freezing, you can utilize the methods below to stop this from happening.

How To Prevent Ice Dams In Gutters & Downspouts

When you are tired of removing ice dams over and over again, it’s time to take action and find a solution to this frustrating problem. While ice dams can be a complicated issue to tackle, there are several methods you can use to prevent them from occurring.

Ice Dams In Gutters & Downspouts

Gutter Heaters

Gutter heaters are similar to heat cables, but they are installed directly inside the gutter channels instead of the roof. Gutter heaters heat the surface of the rain gutters, which helps to melt the snow and ice, and prevent it from building up and forming ice dams in gutters and on the guards.

Downspout Insulation

This simple solution is designed to wrap around your downspouts and keep them from freezing, ensuring that water can flow freely and prevent ice dams in your gutters. There are a few different materials in which downspouts are available, including foam strips, rubber membranes, and plastic, which are all popular options. No matter which insulation you choose, you can ask your roofer or gutter contractor to get a customized size that will wrap around your downspouts perfectly.

If you live in Buffalo, New York, or the surrounding areas in Western New York, we can help you remove and prevent stubborn ice dams and more issues related to this one.

Get A Permanent Solution For Ice Dams

At OConnor Contracting, we make it our priority to ensure that the families in our community live under a safe and comfortable roof, especially during wintertime. Ice dams can be a severe issue, and they are becoming bigger as the climate continues to change. This will likely tend to persist, and more people will need to prepare their homes and commercial spaces for the upcoming years.

If you need winter roofing services like ice dam removal in Buffalo, Amherst, Clarence, or anywhere else in Western New York, you can rely on our team. We have been improving homes and buildings in the area for years. It’s an honor to be the most trustworthy and skilled contractor in Buffalo, our lovely hometown. Call us at (716) 600-7663 for a free roof inspection and estimate for your ice dam issues. We can also share crucial tips for winter roof maintenance over a free consultation.

We hope this guide was helpful to you, and we look forward to helping you out!

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