Ice dams form from melted snow water higher up on the warmer part of your roof , which refreezes when it reaches the unheated overhang.

The recommended way to avoid this from happening is to increase ventilation in your attic and insulation, around light fixtures protruding into the attic, and also any other openings from the warm part of your home into the cold attic. That will also conserve your heat.

Those things are much easier said than accomplished, but you can make improvements.

Raking the snow off of the upper part of your roof before it starts to melt can also help significantly. If there is no snow to melt, ice dams can’t form. Roof rakes are usually not expensive and most will extend 15 feet or more. That should let you remove a considerable amount of the snow before it melts very much.

Under severe conditions – usually found in the more northern states, homeowners sometimes add a heated and insulated wire to the lower portion of the roof to melt any ice or snow that builds up there. That should only be undertaken by a professional, however.

Removing an Ice Dam

Don’t:

  • Try to break it with a hammer or other tool that might damage your roof.
  • Cut through it with a saw or other sharp device.
  • Try to pry it up from the roof.
  • Pour hot water on it to try to melt it.
  • Use a fire of any kind to melt it.

Do:

  • Remove remaining snow above the ice dam with a roof rake.  This should prevent further buildup of the dam.
  • Fill several cloth tubes such as socks or women’s stockings with non-toxic Ice Melt crystals and place them over the ice dam and perpendicular to it.  This will gradually melt through the dam and provide a route for melting water to exit the roof. Make sure that your gutters are open and able to accept the water that comes off the roof.

For all of these steps please take the greatest care to remain safe.  If you don’t feel comfortable doing them, hire a competent person to do them for you.

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