How to Prevent an Ice Dam and What to Do If One Forms

Between frozen pipes, power outages, and downed trees, there are a lot of things for homeowners to worry about in the winter. Especially during winters like this year where temperatures fluctuate, ice dams become a huge concern. Beyond causing damage to your roof, this ice buildup can cause leaking and water damage inside your home. Here are our best tips on how to prevent an ice dam along with some techniques to try if you find yourself dealing with one this winter.

What Is An Ice Dam?

An ice dam occurs when ice builds up at the edge of your roof. It can be problematic because it prevents snow and water from properly draining off of your roof and away from your home. If left untreated, ice dams can eventually melt and cause leaking in your home while also damaging your roof, walls, insulation and any other areas that come in contact with the melted ice.

Why Do Ice Dams Form?

Ice dams become more common when temperatures fluctuate in the winter. Here’s a scenario: it’s been snowing and there’s built up snow on your roof. It’s cold out, so you have the heat going in your home. This warm air rises to the attic and begins warming parts of the underside of your roof, causing some of the snow on your roof to melt. The edge of your roof, however, is not exposed to this warm air. What you end up with is melted snow sliding down and hitting the frozen, snowy edge of your roof. As the melted snow refreezes, it becomes ice along the edge of your roof.

How Do You Prevent an Ice Dam From Forming?

The most important thing you can do is to keep heat out of your attic. Make sure you have proper insulation in attic spaces, which not only minimizes your risk of ice dams, but also helps keep your home warmer. Assess your attic — are there any spaces where warm air can leak in? Check that you also have proper ventilation under your roof to ensure it does not heat up during cold winter months. Lastly, if possible, safely use a roof rake to remove snow from the outer edges of your roof to prevent snow buildup.

What Do You Do If an Ice Dam Forms on Your Roof?
If an ice dam does form, an easy solution is to fill a nylo
n stocking with calcium chloride ice melt. Do not use rock salt or sodium chloride, which can cause more damage to your roof. Place the stocking along the ice dam and over your gutter. It will eventually melt through the ice and create a channel for the water to flow into your gutter or off of your roof. Do not try to chisel away at the ice dam while it is frozen — this can cause more damage to your roof. If you are unable to safely access your roof, call a professional.

We hope these tips help prevent some hassle this winter. If you have more questions about how to prevent your home from winter hazards, you can always reach out to a Doherty Insurance team member through our website or by giving us a call: 978-475-0260.


Doherty Insurance Agency
21 Elm Street
Andover, MA. 01810
Telephone: 978-475-0260
Fax: 978-475-0303