Most people like the snow, especially in the festive season, but it can bring with it a lot of disruption to daily life. During this season, driving in the heavy snow can be a nightmare and incredibly dangerous, heating bills go up, and driveways have to be cleared daily. Another disruption that heavy snow can bring is ice dams on roofs.

Ice dams on roofs can cause untold water damage to your home. Unless your home has an extremely robust, well-built roof, there is a good chance that you could have this problem next time there is heavy snow.

melting ice dams on house roofs

What Causes Ice Dams?

Many people do not realize that there is anything wrong with the roof of their house until there are extreme weather conditions. Most roofs are only built to withstand mild weather conditions, so, unfortunately most people do not realize there is a problem until it is too late.

The reason ice dams are formed is because the snow that has accumulated on the house roof has frozen at the edge instead of melting and being carried away. This frozen snow forms the ice dam, which then blocks any melted snow from escaping.

ice dams on roofs

The melted snow then builds up and will leak into the house through the roof shingles. The reason the snow builds up at the roof edge is usually because the attic of the house is too warm and causes the snow to melt and drip down into the gutters. Once it reaches the gutter, it is no longer receiving any heat from the attic below and will freeze extremely quickly in cold enough weather conditions.

How Do I Prevent Ice Dams Forming?

Now we know what causes ice dams on roofs to form, so let us look at some of the ways they can be prevented in the future. Of course, prevention is better than treatment and two of the best ways to minimize the likelihood of ice dams appearing is through insulation and ventilation.


As explained above the main cause of ice dams on roofs forming is the attic of the house being too hot. The best way to reduce the attic temperature is by installing added insulation.

  • Insulation can be applied to many different areas of the attic including the floors, walls, and ceiling.

  • You should take care to not cover any light fixtures or other appliances that are not supposed to be covered by insulation.

effective ways in removing ice dams on roofs


Ventilation goes hand in hand with insulation. Without good ventilation there will still be heat escaping from the attic no matter how well insulated it is. Very few homes have adequate ventilation for the attic.

  • The recommended level on ventilation is for every 150 feet of floor area in your attic to have 1 square foot of ventilation.

  • An added bonus of insulation your attic is that it removes water vapor, which can cause dry rot in the wood when not taken care of.

Removing Ice Dams On Roofs

Of course, these solutions are no good to people who already have an ice dam and needs to remove it. Let us look at some ways you can deal with it including melting ice dams on roofs.

  • Chiseling grooves into the dam is one emergency measure you can use if you are worried about further damage. You should use a cordless drill with a large drill bit and of course take care not to damage your roof.

know what causes ice dams on roofs

  • Removing ice dams on roofs regularly is an obvious way to prevent further damage. It may be time consuming and laborious but it is a very effective way of keeping things under control.

  • You can buy special rakes for this called ‘roof rakes’ which is preferable to climbing up a ladder which can be dangerous especially in the snow.

  • Although the attic being overly hot is the reason for ice dams forming, heating it up can actually help in the short term. It is one way of removing the snow from your roof that does not involve doing it manually. Just make sure there is enough room for the excess water to drain off. This would be ideal when used with chiseling grooves into the dam.