Avoid Costly Water Damage by Preventing Ice Dams

An ice dam has the potential to cause serious and expensive damage to your roof and the interior of your home. An ice dam is a ridge of ice that forms at the edge of a roof and prevents melting snow from draining off. The water that backs up behind the dam can find cracks and openings in the exterior and leak inside. This will cause damage to walls, ceilings, insulation and more.

According to the University of Minnesota, ice dams are caused by various factors, including the amount of heat loss from a house or building, snow cover and fluctuating outside temperatures. For ice dams to form there must be snow on the roof with temperatures on the upper roof above freezing, and the lower roof with below freezing temperatures.

The melting of roof snow is caused by heat from inadequate roof insulation and/or heat leaks and inadequate ventilation. Heat conducted through the roof melts snow on those areas of the roof that are above heated living spaces, but the snow does not melt on roof overhangs and can collect there. Also, ice damming can occur from the normal freeze-thaw cycle on warm or sunny days.Ice dam on a house

Take steps now to protect your home or building from ice dams. All in all, the best prevention is to eliminate the conditions that make it possible for them to form.


Properly Ventilate & Insulate the Attic to help prevent the melting-and-freezing cycle that causes ice dams to form. Check and seal places where warm air could leak into the attic. This includes vent pipes, exhaust fans, chimneys, attic hatches and light fixtures.

Install a Water-Repellent Membrane. When replacing a roof, make sure to install a water membrane under the shingles. They will act as an extra barrier that helps prevent water from seeping inside.


Blow in Cold Air: Take a box fan into the attic and aim it at the underside of the roof where water is leaking in. This targeted dose of cold air will freeze the water in its tracks.

Rake It: First, remove snow from the roof after every major winter storm by using a special tool called a “roof rake”. Then, carefully pull the snow down the slope of the roofline to avoid damaging the shingles.

Clear Downspouts to allow them to drain properly.


If an ice dam is present, it does not necessarily mean water has penetrated the roof membrane. However, remove ice dams before they have the potential to cause damage. To determine if you have damage, look for water stains or moisture in the attic, around the tops of walls, or on the upper floor.

According to Travelers’ Insurance, there is another method of removing ice dams. You can fill a nylon stocking with calcium chloride ice melt and place it vertically across the ice dam. This will melt a channel through the dam. If you try this method, make sure you can safely position the ice melt on your roof. Also, make sure to use calcium chloride, not rock salt, which will damage the roof.

If icicles are confined to the gutters and no water is trapped behind them, an ice dam might not exist. However, large icicles can pose a danger to people when they fall off. Try to safely knock the icicles off from the ground, making sure not to stand directly beneath them.

Anderson Bros. Steamatic specializes in water damage restoration. If your home or building is suffering from water damage, call us today at 269.743.0777 for a free estimate or visit www.steamaticab.com.