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Ungerman Construction Blog

How to Prevent and Fix Ice Dams from Forming on Your Home

If you own a home in the Twin Cities, there are two words you dread hearing every winter: ice dams. A common occurrence in areas of the U.S. with cold, snow-filled winters, ice dams may look pretty, but they’re nothing but trouble. Let’s look at how ice dams form and some steps you can take to prevent them from ruining your home.

What Is an Ice Dam?

Ice dams are essentially thick ridges or blocks of ice that build up on your roof – particularly along your eaves. Ice dams are almost always bad news and can cause a long list of severe issues in and outside of your home. Some of the most common problems associated with ice dams include:

  • Loose Shingles
  • Torn-Off Gutters
  • Backed-Up Water
  • Water Leaks Inside Your Home
  •  Saggy Ceilings
  • Warped Flooring
  •  Stains
  • Water-Soaked Insulation
  • Mold and Mildew Growth 

What Causes an Ice Dam?

Ice dams form when snow melts on a warm roof and re-freezes. You may be wondering, “How can a roof be warm in the middle of a Minnesota winter.” When the air in your attic is warm, that air tends to transfer through your roof. When that happens, it melts a layer of snow, which causes water droplets to run down the length of your roof. Eventually, these droplets reach your roof’s edge, where they re-freeze on your eaves, which do not get any warm air from your attic.

This process continues until a thick layer of ice builds and builds until a barrier is formed, preventing your roof from doing its job – letting water run off it. While dams and the icicles that form on them look like something out of a storybook, they’re a huge hazard to your house and your family.

How Can You Prevent Ice Dams?

Heated Cables

If you don’t ever want to deal with an ice dam (who does?), you’ve got to be proactive, not reactive. That means finding ways to prevent ice dams from forming in the first place. One of the most popular ways is to purchase heated cables to attach to your roof. Once you make your purchase, you can use clips to attach the cables in a zig-zag pattern along the edge of your roof. This trick equalizes your roof’s temperature so that ice dams won’t form.

Additional Attic Insulation

Alternatively, you can add more insulation to your attic. The idea here is to stop heat from transferring through your roof, which prevents the melting and re-freezing process from causing ice dams. When adding insulation, be sure to add a layer that is between 8-10 inches. Good-quality attic insulation should help prevent heat from leaving your home’s livable areas, thereby reducing the chances of ice dam formations.

Seal Airflow Leaks

Adding insulation to your attic is great, but if warm air is escaping through cracks and gaps, heat may still transfer from your attic to your roof. As we’ve learned, that’s a big no-nowith ice dams. To prevent warm air from escaping, seal up gaps using expandable foam around sewer vent pipes. Also, try rerouting your dryer and bathroom vents from your attic through the exterior wall of your house.

How Can You Remove Ice Dams?

If you can’t or won’t take preventative steps against ice dams, it’s crucial that you remove them if and when they form on your home. That’s especially important because waiting may cause the ice dam to thaw and freeze again, putting more stress on your gutters and roof. Here are a few ways to remove ice dams from your home if one has already formed.

Melt the Dam

You know the stuff you use to melt ice and snow off of your driveway? It’s called calcium chloride, and you can use it to de-ice your roof, too. However, instead of sprinkling it on the ice dam, fill up tube socks with calcium chloride granules. Then, tie off the sock with a string. Repeat the process until you have several tube socks. Position each sock over the dam vertically, with the end of the sock hanging over the edge of your roof.  As the ice melts, it should create a tube-like stream through the ice dam. This allows additional melted water the chance to run safely off your roof.

Ungerman Pro Tip: If you’re not comfortable standing on a snowy, icy roof, it’s best to have ice dams removed by professionals.

Rake the Dam

If you use a long-handled rake for leaves in the fall, it can be useful for pulling snow off your roof and preventing more damage to your gutters. Plus, you can do so without having to get on top of your roof.

Ungerman Pro Tip: If you’ve got an active leak in your attic that is dripping water into your space and letting warm air out, it’s possible to fix with a box fan. Bring the box fan up to your attic and aim the cool air directly where water is leaking. Doing so will freeze the water and stop the leak in its tracks, giving you time to find a more permanent solution like sealing.

Hire a Pro

Professionals can use steaming equipment and other tactics to help remove ice dams from your home. The benefit here is obvious: You don’t have to risk your health by climbing up on an icy roof. You can also rest easy knowing a professional will get the job done right the first time.


When neglected, ice dams can cause significant damage to your roof. To make matters worse, when water from an ice dam is forced under your home’s shingles, there’s a good chance you’ll get leaks. With water leaks come moldgrowth, which is dangerous for your family.

If an ice dam gets out of control and causes mold growth in your home, professional remediation is a must. Ungerman, Inc. is a family-owned company providing full-service mitigation, restoration, reconstruction, and renovation for water damage and other issues. Our mission is to provide our clients with the highest quality of dependable services while carefully managing costs.

If you need restoration, reconstruction, or renovation, please contact us today!