OK, so you know the best way to address ice dams is to prevent them from forming in the first place, with proper attic insulation and air-sealing to keep the heat and warm in your house, and then attic ventilation as the backstop to remove heat that does escape into your attic.
But you live in the mid-Atlantic region, from Virginia and DC to Baltimore and Pittsburgh, and Delware up into New Jersey, you’ve been pummeled with snow, and there is more on the way. What about the ice dam that is on your roof right now?
First, stay off the roof. Walking on an icy, snow-covered roof is dangerous. And falls even from a low roof can result in serious injury or kill you.
Chipping away at the ice with shovels, axes, hammers is also NOT a good idea. It can damage your roofing (or siding or gutters) and it too is dangerous for you.
Instead, try these temporary home remedies:
- Use a long handled snow rake–while you stand safely on the ground and far back from where the snow will be falling—to pull off snow from around the eaves.
- If you’ve already got an ice dam formed, with water building up behind it, fill a panty hose stocking with calcium chloride and lay it so it runs up the roof, across the ice dam. This is a last resort, and the calcium chloride may harm plants below it. [Amazon sells a special “sock” for thick, but old nylon stockings, or even a cheap new pair from the nearest store, should work just as well.]
- If you’ve got water leaking in through the roof, you may be able to stop the leak by sticking a box fan in the attic and having it blast cold air on the leak, freezing the water. Of course, this is a short term fix only, and it works only if the air in the attic is sufficiently cold.
Ice dams can cause water leaks that result in thousands of dollars in damage. The best fix is good insulation and air-sealing to help avoid them in the first place. And it really works. Take action now to avoid the problems coming back in the future.