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Ice Dams & Roof Snow Removal

Picturesque snow-capped houses are charming, but don't be fooled by their delicate beauty. Snow has a great deal of weight, and that weight increases immensely when rain, ice and sleet are added to the mix. Two feet of snow on the average-sized roof can be the equivalent of 38,000 pounds, or 19 tons. All of this weight puts stress on your roof and weakens its structure. Complicating matters more, the melting of this mass can cause water seepage, which can rot roofs, destroy insulation, flood attics, ruin gutters and damage the interior of your home.

If you live in a snowy climate, snow is bound to build up on your roof at times. Small amounts of snow are usually harmless, but when this snow turns into ice, it can become an ice dam. Ice dams form on the roof edge, block draining water and back up water into your home, often leaking through your walls and the ceiling. Prevent the ice buildup on your roof with heat strips to stop ice dams before they start for a perfect solution.

You may have noticed long icicles hanging from your gutters and not realize the significance of the damage that may be occurring behind them. Icicles are usually one of the first warning signs of possible ice dams on your roof. This article will explain what ice dams are, how they form and the best methods for removing them safely.

What is an ice dam? An ice dam is a wall of ice that forms at the edge of the roof, usually at the gutters or soffit. When it forms the water then backs up behind the ice dam and creates a pool of water. This pool of water can leak into your home and cause damage to walls, ceilings, insulation, and other areas.

What causes ice dams?

Ice dams are usually caused by heavy snowfall and improper ventilation in the attic. This causes warmer areas in your attic then the snow begins to melt, even when the outside temperature is well below freezing. When the accumulated snow on your roof starts melting it runs down your roof underneath the snow until it reaches a "colder" section like the soffit's, valleys or in gutters then it begins to freeze again, this process of thawing and refreezing is what causes an ice dam.  

Snow removal from the roof top and gutter system on your home can help prevent ice dams from occurring as quickly but they can still occur if the conditions are right. The gutters will be just as cold as it is outside and in some cases, full of frozen debris. So even if you don't have a soffit for the water to refreeze in, the melted water will most likely refreeze when flowing into the gutters.  

How can I remove an existing ice dam? Properly removing an ice dam and excess snow removal can be quite dangerous if you don't know how. In the past some members of the industry suggested hiring a contractor to pull the gutters off your home so the whole ice dam process would be solved. This suggestion was well intended but wrong. Contractors that started removing gutters caused significant damage to roofing and guttering systems, then when the snow melted it dropped next to the homes foundation and caused the basements to flood. There are specific tools of the trade used to remove snow from your roof and gutters. The sooner you have the snow removed, the less likely your chances are of developing an ice dam.


Performing ice dam and snow removal is risking severe personal injury and damage to the roof if not done properly. Never walk on a snow covered roof and make sure if you're using a ladder you follow the proper safety procedures. Roof Doctor, Inc. highly suggests contacting a professional service, such as ourselves, with the proper equipment and roofing experience to carry out this job.

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