Like Jule Styne wrote, “the weather outside is frightful, but the fire is so delightful”. The winter season is here, bringing with it cold snow, warm fires & holiday cheer. However, for many homeowners – the dreaded ice dam season is also here.

Usually formed on the edge of a roof, and masked by cascades of icicles from the gutter, these ice dams can cause serious damage to your home.

What Is an Ice Dam?

Heat naturally rises, and as the heat inside warms your home, the snow on the roof will slowly melt. This melting snow can freeze at the edge of your roofline creating icicles.

If the ice becomes large enough, it can block the melting snow from properly draining off the roof. In turn, water may back up underneath roof shingles and leak into your home, thus forming an ice dam.

How to identify ice dam

How Do I Identify an Ice Dam?


Take a close look at the icicles that have formed on your roof. If they are only on the gutters, and you see no water behind them, then you’re in the clear. However, the icicles can continue to grow, depending on weather conditions, and it’s possible for them to cause ice dams in the future.


Check for water stains in the attic, on the ceiling, and on the exterior walls of your home. This can often be an indicator of an ice dam location and means water is leaking in between your roof shingles and the interior walls of the home causing mold & mildew.

Water Stains From Ice Dam

How Do I Fix an Ice Dam?

As soon as you identify the ice dam it’s vital that you immediately begin to melt it.

  • Step 1. Use a roof rake and remove snow 3 feet from the edge of your roof. You need to be aware of exits, walking paths, and other areas when you begin, as to not block them with the snow.
  • Step 2. You will need a calcium chloride ice-melting product (found at your local hardware store). Do not use rock salt or sodium chloride – these can damage your roofing. Fill nylon pantyhose with the proper ice melt product and place across the ice dam.
  • Step 3. The calcium chloride in the water dripping from the roof can damage some shrubbery and plants, so you will want to cover and protect any plants with a tarp if they are near the gutters. You can remove it after the process is completed.

Ice Dam

Ice Dam

How Do I Prevent an Ice Dam?


A decent amount of heat is lost in the attic of the average home. Most of this is caused by small air leaks caused by situations like gaps in drywall and plumbing pipes. You can pull back the insulation and plug any leaks with foam. You want to also check that your insulation is in the proper depth (about 12-14 in of fiberglass or cellulose).


Proper ventilation will help draw in colder outdoor air and get rid of the warmer air from inside. The size of this area should be about 1 square foot for every 300 square feet of ceiling. This can help keep your roof cold, delaying the ice melting process.

We’re glad to help you if you need roof repair services in the Chicago area – feel free to contact us today!