IBHS Offers Guidelines to Help You Stop Ice Dams

Before They Cause Costly Damage to Your Roof

Media Contact
Susan G. Millerick
(813) 675-1066

TAMPA, January 9, 2018 – Ice dams, or the ice that generally accumulates on the edges of a roof above the gutter line, are one of Jack Frost’s nastier tricks. Created mainly by snow accumulation and a warm roof, these ice dams can cause serious damage to roofs and walls.

Remington Brown, senior engineering director with IBHS, describes how ice dams are created:

“Ice dams form in cold weather when there is a layer of snow on the roof. Heat within the house rises into the attic and warms the roof. The snow on the roof melts a bit, and water runs under the snow down to the roof edge. The lower edge of the roof tends to be coldest because it extends past the warm interior of the house and does not get as much of the structure’s heat. At the lower edge, a bit of the water refreezes under the snow and forms a thin layer of ice. When that happens again and again, the thin layer builds up and an ice dam is created. Over time, the ice dam expands to the point where it holds back a pool of water on the roof. The growth of the dam can force that water under the roof coverings such as shingles. From there, the water may find its way into the attic or down the walls of the house.”

Fortunately, there are many ways to mitigate ice dams, including proper attic ventilation, increased attic insulation, and sealed ceiling openings, so that the warm air in the house can’t rise into the attic. More immediate steps that home and business owners can take include:

  • From the ground, use a snow rake, ideally with wheels, to remove snow from the roof. The wheels keep the blade of the rake above the roof cover to minimize scraping. Use extreme caution with your footing, and carefully avoid any areas where power lines enter your home. Alternately, hire an established, licensed, insured professional to remove the snow from your roof.
  • Use professionally installed, high-quality heating cables on eaves, gutters, and downspouts, or around roof drains on flat roofs. Make sure the heating cables are UL Listed, FM Approved, or CSA Certified. These cables won’t remove an ice dam, but they will create effective channels that allow water to drain off safely.

For more information on these guidelines and many more including how to protect pipes from freezing, please visit


About the Insurance Institute for Business & Home Safety (IBHS) IBHS’ mission is to conduct objective, scientific research to identify and promote effective actions that strengthen homes, businesses, and communities against natural disasters and other causes of loss.