Ice dams are one of the biggest threats to your roof in the winter. While their long icicles might look quaintly beautiful on the outside of your home, they’re responsible for massive water damage on the underside of your roof, and they can even cause shingles to curl up, a bigger problem that can affect your roof year-round. If you’re new to ice dams, check out this page for more information about what ice dams are, and how they form. If you’re just ready to jump into removing them, here’s our step-by-step guide to getting rid of ice dams once and for all:

Step 1: Stop Ice Dams from Growing

The best offense is a great defense, right? Get your home’s defense going, and stop ice dams from forming by hauling a box fan or two into your attic, and pointing them at the parts of your roof that have the greatest ice dam buildup. This helps stop ice dams from forming. The cold air freezes any melting snow, stopping it from rolling down your roof, or seeping into your attic and causing more damage. 

Step 2: Tackle Existing Ice Dams

Now that you’ve put at least a temporary stop to growing ice dams, you can tackle the ones that already exist in your home. There are a few steps to the ice dam removal process, but the most important thing to remember:


Do not try to hack or chip away at existing ice dams. 


This is bad for your roof and your gutters. You’re more likely to cause more damage by trying to break up ice with a shovel or ice pick than you are to actually get rid of ice dams. 


Instead, fill up an old stocking or pantyhose leg with ice melt or calcium chloride. We know this sounds a little weird, but trust us, it works. 


Throw the stocking up on top of the ice dams, perpendicular to your roof. You may need to fill a few if you have a number of ice dam patches. The ice melt should start working right away, though you may need to move them occasionally to ensure ice melt reaches all parts of the ice dam. 


A quick note: Ice melt isn’t great for the plants below your roof. If you have shrubs or decorative plants in the ground under your roof, you’ll want to protect them with a tarp, so they aren’t exposed to the calcium chloride. 

Step 3: Still Have Ice Dams? Call a Professional. 

If you still have ice dams following the ice melt trick, you’ll want to call a professional roofer. We have special tools and products designed to remove ice dams safely, and we have crews who can get rid of those ice dams for you, without causing any additional damage to your roof. If ice dams are causing serious leakage in your home, it’s a good idea to talk to a professional now — don’t wait for spring. 

Step 4: Take Preventative Measures

If your ice dams aren’t so bad or have finally been removed by ice melt or by professionals, it’s important to stay on top of them until spring rolls around and you can make long-term changes. If you’re still seeing ice dams form, make sure you keep your fans going in the attic. 


It’s also a good idea to take a proactive approach to some of the snow on your roof. If you’ve tried everything else, and ice dams keep showing up, you might want to consider raking the snow off your roof after a big snowfall. This will take away the potential for ice dams to form since snow isn’t sitting and melting on your roof. 


If you decide to rake snow off of your roof, make sure you have the right tools. A professional roof rake is important because it’s designed with the safety of your roof in mind. You don’t want to damage any shingles, and you also don’t want to hurt yourself. A roof rake comes with an extendable handle, so you don’t need to get up on the roof, and they’re designed with wheels that ensure you don’t scrape up any shingles. 

Step 5: Make Bigger Changes in the Spring

Just because you got through the winter with all of the fixes we mentioned above, doesn’t mean that’s the solution to ice dams. The best way to prevent ice dams completely, and avoid serious water damage for your roof and attic, is to make some big changes once spring comes along. A few ways to eliminate ice dams once and for all include: 


  • Adding insulation to your attic floor, so heat can’t escape your interior rooms, melting snow and causing ice dams. 
  • Ventilating eaves and ridge. Adding a ridge vent to your roof can circulate more cold air under the entire roof, stopping ice dams from forming in the same place. 
  • Consider running a heated cable in a zig-zag pattern along your roof’s edge. While this isn’t the best long-term solution, it is an effective, if not energy efficient, way to keep ice dams from forming, especially if you have an old home that’s just too hard to insulate. 


If you’re battling ice dams every winter, and just aren’t sure how to stop the massive icicles and leaking attic, talk to a professional. Ice dams can be a big issue for some of the older, historic homes in Holland, Grand Haven, and throughout West Michigan. For help combatting ice dams in your home, call the experts at Werner Roofing. We’d love to help you get rid of ice dams and protect your home from winter roof damage. Give us a call at 616-844-5382 or contact us online for a free, no-obligation quote today. 


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