Ice Dam Prevention, Management, and Elimination: Hoyt’s Expert Advice

Snowy Minnesota winters can bring a lot of fun: every kid knows the joy sledding, snowman building, and snowball fights can bring! But harsh winter weather can also bring some not-so-fun things, including ice dams and the damage they can cause to your roof.

Read on to learn how ice dams develop, ice dam prevention and management tips, and how the experts at Hoyt handle ice dam removal.

What Causes Ice Dams?

An ice dam is a ridge of ice that forms at the edge of your roof. As snow melts, this ice ridge causes melting snow to pool behind it. That water can then leak through cracks or penetrations in your roof and into your home, damaging ceilings, walls, insulation, and your belongings. 

The primary cause of ice dams is uneven roof surface temperatures, where the edges of your roof are at temps below freezing, but higher parts of your roof are warm enough to cause snow melt. As snow buildup on the higher parts of your roof melts, the melting snow flows down the roof and reaches the colder part of the roof, where it freezes and forms an ice dam. 

Uneven roof surface temperatures can be caused by insufficient insulation or by warm air leaking into the attic through penetrations in the ceiling, leaky ductwork, or your chimney.

Ice Dam Prevention and Management Tips

When it comes to ice dam prevention and management, the simplest solution is to improve attic insulation and ventilation. But it’s often more complicated than that. You also have to consider the age of the home, how complicated the roof lines are, and whether or not problem areas are accessible from the attic. 

Bypasses—leaks through the ceiling into the attic—can also be a big contributor to melting snow, which in turn aids in the formation of ice dams. When this is the case, we’ll sometimes recommend heat tape be installed in areas known for troublesome ice dam formation due to a bad design or no access to do other repairs and upgrades.

Can a Homeowner Manage Ice Dams on Their Own? At What Point Should They Call an Expert? 

If your roof is a simple design, and you can safely access it from the ground with a roof rake, removing the snow after a large snowfall as far up as you can reach will make a huge difference. However, if your roof is a more complex design, or if you aren’t able to reach it from the ground with a roof rake, it’s best to have a professional handle the snow removal for you.

In addition, if ice dams have already formed and you notice water leaking into the home, it’s time to contact an expert to remedy the situation.

Hoyt’s Approach to Ice Dams

A common solution for ice dam removal is steaming. But because the cost of steaming can be high, and the majority of our clients consist of multi-family homes (which don’t have an active outdoor water source in the winter), we normally shovel the snow above the ice dam, then apply calcium chloride to the dam itself, creating channels for the water to run off the roof. 

If conditions are right for the formation of ice dams, we’ll often do multiple units of a multi-family complex at a time, reducing the overall cost and impact on the roof. 

Snow removal is the number one way to eliminate and reduce the size of an ice dam. Shoveling the snow buildup from the roof takes away the “fuel” that causes the ice dam in the first place, preventing it from growing larger.

However, using the wrong tools can cause further damage to your roof. At Hoyt, we use plastic shovels to remove snow, and the chemicals we use to melt the ice dams are safe for your roofing material as well.

In addition, there are some cases where an ice dam may not need to be treated. 

We provide value to our customers by helping them determine whether to treat the ice dam or not, depending on the facts at hand. We look at whether the roof is currently leaking, as well as what else is in the area of the ice dam (i.e., vents, plumbing stacks, skylights, etc). 

Sometimes it’s better to let the ice dam take care of itself, especially in the late part of winter when the sun will do a lot of the work for you. But it’s best not to assume it will work itself out, and get the advice of a professional.


If you’re dealing with an ice dam, the team at Hoyt can help you determine the best way to handle it. Contact us today to take a look at it and discuss the best options for moving forward. We’ll take care of your ice dam problem so you can get back to enjoying the fun parts of winter again.

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