Ice Dam



 Ice Dam and Snow Removal Rates:

  • $85 Per Hour Per Man
  • $80 Trip Charge
  • $250 Minimum Charge ($80 Trip + first 2 Man Hours)

Time is charged On-Site only and we will leave a form showing start and stop times and the number of workers.  At billing, we will round times to the nearest quarter-hour.  Contact us for rates if you specifically want steaming.

Ice dams or ice back up are terms we have become accustomed to hearing. They may not mean much to us unless they happen to be causing leakage of water into our home. Then, we probably are just more concerned about stopping the leaks rather than understanding what is causing them. We are going to try to simply explain what is happening with an ice damming problem and more importantly what you can do about it.


Although a temporary fix, it is best to remove the snow and ice in the area that you are having leakage or seeing an ice dam form.  Snow and ice should be removed from the entire roof plane and not just from the lower edge. Removing the ice and snow does have some potential for causing damage to the roof, so this work should be done by someone who knows how to do it and will be careful. An axe should never be used.

Very often steaming is recommended for this process. We have found that steaming will cost many times more than other methods. It takes much longer and requires much more expensive equipment to do the job. And if not used properly, can also damage the roof. There are times when it is necessary, but those are very rare.


Ice dams occur when the snow on your roof begins to melt and when the outside temperature is not warm enough to be the cause of that melting. As the snow melts, the water runs down the roof and is insulated to the cold temperature by the snow cover. When it gets to the lower edge, it is exposed to the cold temperature either from the roof deck at the overhang or as it runs out of the snow cover. The exposed water freezes and begins to build up a dam. As more snow melts, this process continues and the height of the dam rises and holds more and more water behind it. The shingle roof system is an overlapping system that requires the water to run downhill off the roof. When water stands on a shingle roof it can back up between the overlapping shingles (since they are not a waterproof system) and leak into the house.

The ice dam normally forms at the lower edge of the roof and the resulting leakage shows up near the wall and roof intersection. This is not always the case. A notable exception is when the snow has been removed from the lower edge of the roof. In this case, the water runs out of the snow cover up from the edge, at the point where the snow removal stopped. The ice dam can form at that point and the resulting leakage is further back into the house. We have also seen where the ice dam may form just below a skylight. This occurs when there is heavy snow, covering over the skylight in addition to very cold temperatures.


The most severe ice damming appears when there is significant heat loss from inside the house that warms the roof deck.

Premature melting of snow can also occur when the sun is able to warm up some areas of the roof and cause melting, even when the temperatures are below freezing. There can also be some ice build up when the temperature is hovering around the freezing mark and going above and below or cooling at evening. This however tends to have a minimal impact.

We have seen where dryer vents exhausting out on the roof can prematurely melt large areas of snow even when the temperature is very cold. Furthermore, other types of exhaust vents on the roof can have a similar affect. This can create localized ice dams below the vents.


The first item we recommend you address is the insulation and ventilation in the attic along with closing off any bypasses. This action will cut down on the melting significantly. It will also lower heating and air conditioning expenses. This approach will not work in all homes. Some have no attics or cavities that are large enough to adequately allow insulation and ventilation without major construction work. A couple of examples are cathedral ceilings or story-and-a-half homes where the ceiling is attached to one side of the 2×4 rafter and the roof deck is attached to the other. The three and a half inch rafter cavity is not adequate to insulate and ventilate properly.

Another thing that can be done is to install an ice dam protection membrane under the shingles that is a waterproof layer. This will stop the water that gets through the shingle roof before it gets into the house. The ideal time to install this is with a new roof but it can be installed on an existing roof. The shingles have to be removed down to the roof deck. The ice dam protection membrane is installed directly to the roof deck and shingles are reinstalled over the membrane.

Another option is the installation of heating cables. If heat cables are installed properly and used religiously they can melt a channel through the ice dam and let the water escape before it backs up into the house. Heat cables are not intended to melt all the ice off the roof, just enough to make channels that the water can run through. If heat cables are not installed properly they can actually cause more leakage. In addition, if you forget to turn them on you can have leakage.

There has been some significant advancement in the development of heat cables. The common variety that can be bought at your local hardware store, install and simply plug in are still readily available. However, a better option is the “self-­regulating heat cable”. To guard against overheating, this new generation of heat cable regulates how hot it gets by automatically reducing the amount of electricity that the cable draws when it senses that it is hot.