How to Remove Ice Dams From Your Gutters

By Gutter Expert Henry Gerbin
Updated On

Are you wondering how to remove ice dams from your gutters?

You’ve come to the right place!

In this Gutter guide, you’ll learn:

  • The dangers of ice dams on your roof
  • The ways to remove ice dams
  • How to prevent ice dams

And much more!

Image of ice dams clogging up gutters

So, if you’re looking for answers on how to remove ice dams from your gutters, keep reading our detailed guide below to get answers to all of your questions!

What are the Dangers of Ice Dams to your Roof?

Ice dams can harm your roof and your family members. Sure, ice might look shiny, pretty and make your home look like that winter wonderland you’ve always imagined. But, the downsides of ice buildup definitely outweigh the visual appeal (hate to break it to you). 

But why, might you ask, is this ice so problematic? Well, in short, ice weighs a lot!

And not only that, but it could cause lots of damage when it falls. 

Ice tends to collect on your roof and near its edges during the winter season, especially after a winter storm. You will notice icicles along with an ice dam around the gutters

Icicles forming on a gutter

If you don’t address your ice issues, it will cause damage to your roof and increase the likelihood of water dripping through the roof into your home (yikes…).

You probably don’t want water leaks in your living room or large chunks of ice falling on your head on the way to the mailbox, right? 

That’s why you should be aware of the dangers of ice dams on your roof and gutters. So, let’s dive into some of the key risks of ice dams (and how to prevent them!).

The Risk To Your Gutters

When you get a ton of ice and snow on your roof, it could melt in the sunlight then refreeze into a large chunk of ice as it slides down into your gutters (hello, heavy mini-glacier, have you met the gutters?).

Then, when the weather gets warm enough for the snow and ice to melt, the ice dam may end up loosening enough to fall off the roof.

And, if it falls, it might just take your gutters right along with it!

Obviously that’s not what you want. It’s not what we want either. Therefore, eliminating ice dams before they get the chance to take your gutters down with them is probably best.

Ice Dams Allow Moisture to Enter Your Home

Even if the ice dams don’t end up ripping off your gutters as they tumble to the ground, the dam may cause water to seep between the shingles of your roof. There, it will freeze and expand, causing the shingles to loosen.

Once the shingles are loose, moisture can leak through the roof and cause interior water damage. 

What’s worse, water damage on your ceiling or your gutters ripped from your home?

Unfortunately, homeowners usually don’t get to choose one or the other and often get stuck with both types of damage (yeesh!). 

But wait, there’s more! 

Water leaks in your roof can cause mold, mildew, and bacteria growth which can then lead to respiratory issues for you and your family. 

Ice Dams Cause Structural Water Damage

Moisture in your attic can wreak havoc! It can rot your roof joists and rust any exposed nails. Plus, if it goes unnoticed for too long, it could lead to thousands of dollars in repairs. 

Ice dams are notorious for causing severe damage to your roof, as well as your home’s overall structure. So don’t take ice dams lightly; fix them fast!

When water can’t drain off your roof, it has to go somewhere. 

Usually, that means it works its way into your attic. The water seeps through the insulation, ceilings, and walls. Eventually, this will cause sagging ceilings, warped floors, mildew or mold, and severe damage to many areas in your home. 

Moisture seeping into an attic roof

So, if you’d rather not deal with a massive mold and water damage problem, it’s probably best to call a pro to deal with your ice dam the moment you notice one forming. Trust us, you’re far better off being safe than sorry!

What Are The Top Things You Can Do To Remove Ice Dams?

While you can temporarily get rid of ice dams by heating or melting them away, that’s not a permanent solution. 

Here are the top three ways to remove ice dams from your gutters.

Eliminate the Fuel Source

If you fail to take action, the ice dam on your gutters will continue to build on your roof. To avoid this, you should remove snow and ice. 

The best way to remove snow is with a handy snow rake. Consider using a long retractable rake that extends at least 17 feet or more. 

Instead of climbing onto your roof and potentially falling, use the rake from the ground to scrape off of the existing snowpack.

Pull the snow toward you rather than using a side-to-side technique to avoid dislodging or damaging your shingles. 

Install Heat Cables

A great way to combat ice dams in your gutters is by installing heat cables on your roof during summertime. These cables melt snow and ice and prevent ice dams from forming during the wintertime in the first place.

They are the easiest way to prevent ice dams, but they will cost you. 

Contact our gutter experts to help you install heat cables. 

Typically, we will install the heat cables on roof planes facing north with a higher roof plane draining onto it. 

Since these north-facing roof planes receive little to no sun, excess water is more likely to turn into an ice dam. We can also install heat cables to prevent ice dams from clogging your drain pipes and your downspouts.

Remove Snow

If summertime is fast approaching and the ice dams from your gutters are likely to melt, it might be best just to remove the rest of the snow. 

Icicles hanging on gutter near gutter downspout

If not, the snow will start melting under the sun and turn into new ice dams near the roof’s eaves.

Please note: the National Roofing Contractors Association (NRCA) recommends leaving some snow on your roof to prevent damaging your shingles. 

This way, the contractors’ shovels aren’t bashing directly into the shingles on your roof.

Luckily, our experts are trained to safely remove snow from your roof without harming your shingles with their shovels.

Blow in Cold Air

A good trick to prevent ice dams is to use a box fan in your attic to blow air at the underside of your roof. 

This targeted blowing of air is an effective and safe way to prevent ice dams. It stops ice dams by cooling down your attic, so it does not melt the snow on your roof. 

Remember, when the snow melts, it can turn into an ice dam quickly.

Don’t use a hammer, shovel, or chisel to hack away ice dams– that’s dangerous for you and your roofing. 

At the same time, throwing rock salt on your gutter can actually harm your home more than the ice itself.

Confused? Don’t worry, we’ll explain why below!

Can You Remove Ice Dams From Your Gutters By Yourself?

Some homeowners feel like they’re up to the challenge of removing ice dams themselves. However, ice dams are much trickier and more dangerous to remove than you’d expect.

If you want to prevent injuries to yourself and damage to your home, give our gutter experts a call to help you remove the ice dams in a fraction of the time (and without the guesswork, ladders, and threat of falling off your roof into a giant snow pile…).

With that said, here are a couple of steps our gutter experts will use to remove ice dams from your roof and gutters.

Use a Deicer

Salt is a popular way to melt ice. That’s why cities and counties spread it all over the roads before and during winter storms. 

But what’s the downside of using salt on your roof and gutters? 

Well, there’s actually a significant impact since salt is majorly corrosive (and you really don’t want to corrode your roof, right?). 

Not only that, but salt can harm many things around your home, like your planters and landscaping, shingles, and other structural components. 

Luckily, you can use salt in multiple ways to combat ice dams without hurting your roof’s structure.

Grab an old stocking or pantyhose, fill it up with calcium chloride ice melt, and seal off the ends. Then, lay the ice melt-filled pantyhose on the roof so that it’s placed over the ice dam and overhangs the gutter. 

You could stand on a ladder to place it on the ice dam or use a long-handled rake to help you put the deicer solution on the roof. 

The calcium chloride will start melting through the snow and ice and eventually down to your roof. It will create a new channel for the water to flow down out of the gutters during the process.

By using a sock or stocking, the salt stays mostly contained and doesn’t spread or damage other parts of your yard or home.

Plus, once spring settles in, you can simply remove the stocking. 

Rake It Off

Some inexperienced homeowners tend to pick at the ice with a chisel or a hammer to remove ice dams from their gutters and roof. 

Thankfully, you know you shouldn’t do that (or at least you do now!). 

Ice picks and hammers will damage your roof and pose several safety hazards.

If you want to use a hand tool to break up a dam, consider using a rake. Long-handled aluminum roof rakes are designed to help you remove ice and snow from your gutters and roof. 

Using a snow rake on a roof

Its long handle lets you clean the ice from the ground–at a safe distance, of course.

For extra security, grab a roof rake with wheels to ensure the ice dams break apart without damaging the shingles.

Luckily, raking snow and ice automatically changes your roof’s exterior temperature and prevents the buildup of more ice dams. 

Chip Away At It!

Yes, hand tools like hammers and chisels can damage your roof. But sometimes, our gutter contractors still make use of these tools with a skilled and steady hand. 

Some use ice awls or ice picks, while others use a crowbar or hatchet. We’re not bashing these onto your roof with full force. 

We don’t want to break or damage the roof, so we use light, controlled taps to crack the ice to make it easier to remove. 

If you decide to risk doing this yourself, make sure you’re standing on a stable ladder or some other sturdy object before you reach into the gutter. 

Then, start at the drain and start chipping away at the ice buildup till you get back up the edge of the roof.

Be careful not to damage the roof, its shingles, or yourself. Remember that you don’t have to remove all of the ice, just enough that the melted snow and ice can start running through the gutters again.

We generally don’t recommend this method to homeowners as it’s very easy to damage your roof or injure yourself. Use at your own risk or give our team a call for help. 

How Do You Actually Prevent Ice Dams from Forming on your Roof Every Year?

Perhaps you’ve had ice dam issues on your roof the last few winters? If you don’t want the stress again this winter, there are some preventive measures you can take right now to avoid this obnoxious problem. 

Take action before the first snowfall by learning the best DIY methods of ice dam prevention for your roof and gutters. 

Below are a few of the easiest ways we recommend to avoid the buildup of snow and ice dams. 

Close Up Attic Bypasses

On average, one-third of the total heat loss in a house occurs through the ceiling and into the attic

Plus, most heat loss sources from air leaks are due to gaps in drywall, unblocked walls, and cracks around chimneys, light fixtures, access hatches, plumbing pipes, and other ceiling penetrations. 

Adding proper insulation to an attic

So, what does heat loss have to do with ice dams?

Heat loss and air leaks are often the reasons ice dams form in the first place! 

Heat lost through your roof melts the snow sitting on top of it, which then transforms into ice dams. 

But unfortunately, stopping an air leak can be a strenuous and challenging task. 

You’ll have to climb into your attic, rake back insulation, and block the leaks using caulk, foam, or other effective techniques. In some cases, low roof angles may make it impossible for you to reach some air leaks.

It is best if you do this work during the cool weather, as your attic will end up becoming unbearably hot in the summertime. Make sure you always wear a long-sleeved shirt, a dust mask, and pants to prevent the insulation from causing skin and respiratory irritations.

Add Soffit Vents

Houses with good attic ventilation rarely run into ice dam issues. 

This is because by circulating the cool outside air into your attic, you can ensure your roof’s surface remains below freezing temperature. And because of this, the snow doesn’t have a chance to melt and turn into an ice dam. 

Although it can be confusing, a cold attic prevents ice dams, whereas a warm attic melts snow and creates them.

Here’s why.

If the roof is always cold, the snow can never melt and turn to water. If the roof is warm, the snow melts, turns to water, then refreezes into ice. As such, the roof temperature is an essential aspect in preventing the formation of ice dams

A good way of improving attic ventilation is by creating continuous airflow from the soffit right up to the roof’s peak. Generally, a soffit and ridge vent system requires insulation baffles installed below the edge of your roof and above the exterior walls.

Gutter technician adding soffits

These baffles help hold back the insulation by 1 to 2 inches and create a channel for air to flow through the insulation. Without well-structured baffles, the insulation could block the air through the soffit vents on the underside of the roof and eliminate airflow.

You could even combine the baffles with a ridge vent to ensure the air flows through a continuous path outdoors to prevent ice dam formation.

Measure Your Attic’s Insulation Level 

The only way to know how much insulation your attic has is to climb into it!

So climb up there and check the insulation’s depth. It’s also a good idea to upgrade your attic insulation to an excellent R-value like R-40.

Typically, building codes require you to have at least 12- to 14-inch fiberglass or cellulose insulation. 

If you notice that you have less than 8-inches and have had ice dam problems several times in the past, add more insulation.

The fact is that blown-in fiberglass and cellulose work better than hand-placed batts. It is because they fill up rafters, joists, and other obstructions more tightly and leave little to no gaps in between.

Consider hiring our professional to measure your attic’s insulation level. Alternatively, you could rent a blower to add more and check it yourself.

How Can A Gutter Repair Professional Help Remove Ice Dams?

While you can try out the solutions mentioned above yourself, some of them are only temporary fixes. 

Instead, connect with our expert gutter professionals to discuss long-term solutions.

For example, we may recommend steaming away existing ice dams. Steaming requires commercial equipment that uses hot water and dispenses it under high pressures onto your roof and gutters.

Our pros will start by removing excess snow and ice from your roof by using a roof rake. Then, we’ll steam channels through the ice dam to ensure it melts properly. After that, we might start chipping away parts of the dam (with care) until your roof is left with a clean sheet of ice.

Professional ice-dam removal costs between $200–$300/hour on average, depending on the roof, the surface area, how big the ice dams are, and the methods required for removal. 

Typically, our gutter experts will recommend one or more of the following things as a more permanent solution to ice dams:

  • Add insulation to your attic
  • Ventilate the eaves and ridges
  • Seal and insulate ducts
  • Exhaust through your ceiling or walls without hurting your soffit
  • Cover your attic hatch
  • Repair interior damage and ensure the ceilings and walls are dry
  • Add or repair flashing around the chimney

So, when in doubt, fill out the form and reach out to our team to start chipping away at your ice dam problem today! 

Meet Your Gutter Expert

Henry Gerbin


Whether your gutters are leaking, broken, or you're just someone considering the purchase of your first set of gutters Henry is here to help. He regularly contributes his thoughts and knowledge with the RegionalGutterRepair readers publishing guides and studies on the latest in gutters.

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