Ice Dams & How to Remove Them


Ice dam is a solid ridge of ice that forms on the edge a roof

The state of Minnesota typically experiences harsh winters that involve below freezing temperatures, cold winds, and blizzards.  As many homeowners in the area already know, the weight of the snow and ice from a major snowstorm can put a lot of stress on your roof which can lead to structural issues and water damage.  The damage can be much worse if an ice dam forms on your roof.

An ice dam is a solid ridge of ice that forms on the edge of the roof when melted ice and snow from a warmer section of the roof refreezes when it reaches the colder edge.  Ice dams can cause several problems when they form as the weight of the ice can cause damage to the roof, siding, or gutters, and they also prevent melted water from draining from the roof.  This results in pooling water which can lead to leaks and indoor water damage.

If you notice that an ice dam has formed on your roof, you need to act quickly to have it removed.  Any hesitation to remove ice dams can result in significant damage.

How do Ice Dams Form?


When snow melts and moves to the edge of the roof, where it refreezes, it forms an ice dam

The main cause of ice dams is poor attic insulation.  If the attic is not properly insulated, the heat from inside your home will escape and warm up sections of the roof.  This causes the ice and snow to melt and move to the edge of the roof where it refreezes and forms an ice dam.  Ice dams freeze over the gutter and prevent the water from draining properly from the roof.  As a result, the melted ice and snow either refreeze over the ice dam or pool on the roof which can lead to leaks.

How to Get Rid of Ice Dams in the Short Term

  • Remove snow and ice with a roof rake: Using a roof rake is the safest way to remove ice and snow from the roof because you can use them while standing on the ground. Roof rakes generally cost $30 to $50.
  • Melt the ice from the edge of the roof:
    • Throw or place Ice Melt Pucks near the ice dams ($20/ box)

      Important about Ice Melt:

      Only use Calcium Chloride and not Sodium Chloride or any other ice melt. The Sodium Chloride will damage shingles, siding and plants (in the spring). Calcium Chloride will work well below zero and will not damage your home or soil.

      • Use only Calcium Chloride pucks, they are available at hardware stores, lumber yards, and online.
        • Advantages: easy to throw on the roof
        • Disadvantages: hard to throw them where you want them
      • Make ice melt socks (Socks $8, Ice melt $18)How-To-Remove-Ice-Dams-Minnesota
        • Cut the “leg” part off nylon
          stockings, knee highs, or even tube socks. Fill them up with 2-3 pounds of ice melt and tie the ends.  Place ice melt socks vertically, one end by the gutter and the other end up the roof slopes spacing them every 4 feet.  The socks will create (melt) a channel in the ice to allow water to run off the roof.

          • Advantages: more accurate placement on roof where needed.
          • Disadvantages: high roofs make them harder to put in place.
        • Steam ice off the roof ($1,000 – $2,000)
          • The average cost is over $1,000 to hire this service, but it does work. This needs to be repeated each time is snows.


Ice Dam Prevention

The best action to take against ice dams is to prevent them from forming in the first place.  The following tips will help you prevent ice dams:

  • Add insulation to the attic ($700 – $1,200): proper attic insulation will prevent heat from escaping to the roof and melting the ice and snow.
  • Install roof heat cables ($140 or more depending on the size of the house): this should be done during the summer or fall because it is too difficult to install roof heat cables in the winter.
  • Install a metal roof ($120 to $900 per 100 square feet)


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