What to Know About Professional Ice Dam Removal

Ben Kissam
Written by Ben Kissam
Updated November 12, 2021
American house in winter
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Believe it or not, steam is the solution (yes, even during a storm)

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It’s an unsightly scene to find a large, swollen mass of ice forming on your roof during the cold weather months. We’ve all seen ice crystals hanging down from gutters. But if yours is growing rapidly or your home’s attic or rooms are leaking, you may need to take immediate action.

Ice dams pose a threat to both your roof and the immediate safety of the property and people sitting below the area. And because most DIY approaches aren’t safe for you or your roof, hiring a pro is highly recommended. Here are six tips to consider before hiring a professional ice dam removal company.

1. Know When to Take Action

House with Icicles on Roof
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Ice dams are formed by melted water running underneath snow piles in your roof. As heat escapes through your attic, it can melt snow, which runs down into your gutters and freezes underneath. 

As it accumulates, large, swollen masses of ice can damage gutters, downspouts, and eaves. They also pose a safety threat to decks, sidewalks, and people underneath.

It’s time to take action if:

  • Shingles appear damaged or compromised on your roof

  • Water is leaking into your attic or home’s rooms

  • Your roof or gutters are sagging or straining under the weight of the ice dam*

  • The ice dam is growing rapidly and continued cold or wet weather is in the forecast

*Most roofs are built to support 2 feet of snow before problems start to arise.

There are some ways you can prevent ice dams from forming in the future. But for now, your best bet is to bring in a professional ice dam removal company to tackle the job. Be very careful climbing on your roof to diagnose the issue, especially if the weather is bad. 

Having someone hold the ladder below you is advised or better yet, use a drone so you don’t have to go on your roof at all.

2. Know Which Methods Could Damage Your Home

Ice dam removal seems simple on the surface. Just remove all the ice and snow, then wait for warmer weather to wipe out the rest. Right?

Sort of, but not exactly. Generally speaking, the safest way (and therefore only advisable approach) to remove an ice dam from your roof is with steam. Pros use pressured steam machines to melt ice dams and allow liquid to run safely off your roof.

There are a number of potentially dangerous and/or costly methods that aren’t recommended when clearing out an ice dam on your home.

These methods include:

  • Putting heating cables on your roof

  • Applying an open flame of any type to the ice dam

  • Putting salt pucks, salt bags, or other chemicals in your gutters or on the ice dams

  • Using an ice pick or other sharp objects to break up the ice

Take it as a warning sign from local ice dam removal contractors if they use other methods or don’t offer steam services.

3. Prep Work Will Likely Be Necessary

Because ice dams tend to form underneath accumulated snow on the roof, you’ll likely need to clear off all the snow first to diagnose your issue.

Removing snow from a roof safely is best done with a roof rake, which costs between $60 and $180. Using it regularly to move snow off the roof during periods of cold and wet weather can help prevent ice dams from forming. Just make sure to scrape it off the livable areas below, too, in order to prevent your deck from ice and snow damage.

Keep in mind: Roof rakes should not be used to break up the ice but only to clear up the overhanging snow.

4. Ask About Fee Structures

A local snow removal specialist is your best bet for this job. But because each ice dam removal job is different, professionals may use different fee structures or payment methods to come do the job. Be sure to ask or receive a quote.

Most pros charge by the hour ($300 to $600 per hour is common), but some have a minimum two-hour commitment. Others charge extra for immediate service. Get at least two or three quotes to find a good price in your area.

If you’re removing an ice dam from a corporate building or large structure, you may need to hire a larger company to prep the area and tackle the job.

5. Only Hire Bonded and Insured Professionals

As you look over reviews and make a shortlist of pros to call, be sure to ask if they’re licensed and bonded. Ice dam removal does come with risk. Hiring a bonded and insured contractor protects you in case something happens or the job isn’t completed correctly.

6. Be Specific When Asking an Ice Dam Removal Pro About Insurance

A simple “yes” isn’t enough in the case of ice dam removal when discussing contractor insurance. Because ice dam removal is dangerous, insurance costs can be extraordinarily high for companies. 

For example, a handyperson or roof company may have experience getting rid of ice dams. But just because they have insurance doesn’t necessarily mean it covers ice dam removals. In many cases, contractors mistakenly assume they’re covered for ice dams because they have general insurance. But that isn’t always the case.

Be sure to specifically ask the professional if they are covered for ice dam removal before hiring or signing any paperwork.

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