ice icicles on the roofs of a house.

Everything you should know about removing ice dams on your roof


Ice is often thought of as something dangerous, like with icy roads or ice dams on your roof edge; but it is also dangerous on flat roofs as well! Removing ice dams on your roof is not only essential for safety reasons, but also to protect your roof and home.

La Clinique de la toiture FCA explains why it is so important to remove ice dams from your roof and tells you how to do it, or better yet, how to prevent it.

Why is it so important to remove ice dams from your roof?

Ice dams and icicles on the edge of your roof are well known for how dangerous they are: they can fall off and cause severe consequences. But did you know that this is not the only risk related to having ice accumulating on your roof? You should also know that, even if you have a flat roof, ice should still be considered dangerous.

Firstly, it is important to know that there are several causes to ice accumulating on your roof. In general, ice will start to form when days get warmer and the snow begins to melt; only to freeze again. This phenomenon causes what we refer to as “ice dams”.

The same thing can happen during very sunny days. It can also be caused from heat emanating from the interior, like when it is being evacuated through the roof, for example.

Regardless of the cause, ice is very dense and places a heavy load on the roof and the building structure. Moreover, ice will “trap” water beneath its surface, causing it to accumulate over the roof structure, which can then cause water infiltration. This significantly impacts drainage!

Icicles hanging from a roof.

What are the risks of leaving ice accumulations on your roof?

Do you have a tendency to delay the removal of ice accumulations or ice dams on your roof, or tell yourself that it will go away by itself? Doing so can lead to consequences that are much more severe than you could imagine.

As we have mentioned, the weight of the ice itself can cause damages to your roof. By having to withstand heavier loads than your roof was built for, it can begin to deteriorate, with consequences to its structure. The roof is the first place to be affected; but this can also spread, leading to collapsed ceilings and walls as well. Do not underestimate how heavy ice can be!

As water accumulates and gets trapped under the ice, this can significantly impact drainage. When drainage is no longer efficient, the waterproofing membrane is the first victim.

Once the membrane is affected, you risk water infiltration. When water can no longer drain where it’s supposed to, it goes where it can! And where there is water, there can be mold; which means both your roof and your structure could be affected. These are problems that can prove to be very expensive!

So, before postponing your ice dam problem, think about it carefully. How, exactly, can you know if ice accumulation on your roof is problematic? Generally, you might notice signs such as:

  • Cracks on your ceilings and wall
  • Your doors are getting stuck or become harder to open or close
  • You hear strange noises and creaks
  • The ceiling has a strange shape

Now that you know the risks, find out more about how to remove ice dams on your roof.

Bottom view of melting icicle hanging from the roof in spring time. Stock footage. Water dripping from an icicle on grey sky background.

What are the different ways of removing ice accumulations on your roof?

Do you want to remove the ice dams on your roof yourself? First and foremost, here is what you should not do: use a hammer or an ice pick. Even though you might think that this is a good way to remove or break the ice, it can also break other parts of your roof structure at the same time, like your waterproofing membrane, for example.

Moreover, when removing snow from your roof, you should leave a 10-15 cm layer of snow: this is the best way to prevent damages to the membrane with your shovel.

Then, there are two ways you can deal with ice accumulation. On the one hand, you can spread salt, preferably a non-corrosive defroster. This will work in temperatures that are not too cold. Spread the salt by tracing lines that move towards the drain.

On the other hand, you could simply use hot water to melt the ice. Once more, you should work your way towards the drainage system.

There are more efficient ways to remove ice accumulations from your roof, but they must be completed by professionals. In fact, they require specific skills and materials. For example, removing ice with vapor is quick, efficient and extremely safe for your roof.

To remove ice dams or snow from your roof, or for maintenance and repairs, the Clinique de la toiture FCA team of seasoned roofers is here to help!

Icicles hanging from a glass roof.

How can you prevent ice dams from forming on your roof?

The very best scenario would –obviously- be not to have any ice at all! So, how can you prevent ice from accumulating on your roof?

As we have seen above, snow that begins melting is one of the main reasons ice starts forming. Removing snow from your roof regularly is a simple and efficient way of preventing ice from forming. Regular snow removal on your roof obviously requires time and energy. Don’t forget that you can ask professionals for help!

Another very useful tip would be to install heating cables onto your roof. They release heat in order to prevent ice dams from forming. Yes, this might cause your electricity bill to rise, but that is why there are newer available options that have automated systems.

Other than natural causes, ice formation can come from insolation or ventilation problems as well. This is the case when snow begins to melt due to heat being evacuated through the roof.

An inspection could help you identify the source of the problem. You might want to complete some repairs as well. Sometimes adding insulation or sealing air leaks is enough! Do not hesitate to ask a professional for help.

What are the costs related to ice removal on your roof?

Ice removal costs for your roof can vary. In fact, firstly, it will depend the size of your roof! Moreover, the amount of snow and ice to remove along with the height of your roof are other variables that can influence the price.

Costs can be a few hundreds of dollars to prices reaching close to $ 1,000. In any case, removing ice from your roof will be less expensive than repairs due to infiltration or a collapsed structure. So, think it through!

For help with repairs or maintenance on your flat roof, you can trust in Clinique de la toiture FCA. Our team of experts will be happy to answer all of your questions about ice or snow removal, and will complete the task safely and professionally.

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