Most lower-cost ice dam prevention products offer more of a short term solution as opposed to solving the root cause of the problem.
To completely eliminate ice-dam related issues, you will need to ensure adequate insulation and ventilation of the attic space and/or install ice belt metal pans or high-end metal roof such as standing seam or metal shingles.
However, even temporary ice dam prevention measures can still be helpful and even necessary when you have no other choice. They can also be significantly cheaper, at least in the short term. So, you may want to consider using the following products, especially if you live in an area that normally does not experience a lot of major snow storms.
A snow rake can be used to clear snow off the roof. Preventing the build up of snow on your roof can make it impossible for ice dams to form.
A snow rake is a long handled rake with a wide head that can be used to remove large strips of snow from the roof of your home. It is fairly light, but sturdy, so that it can remove the snow without damaging the roof itself. However, it is still important to be careful when using a snow rake in order to ensure that the roof will not be harmed.
Tip: You can get a 21 foot long snow rake at Walmart for about $60. It’s highly rated by consumers. Just make sure you know how to properly use it!
What if I have a Metal Roof of PV Solar Panels I don’t Want to Scratch?
If you have a metal roof that you don’t want to scratch or solar panels that you don’t want to damage in the process, you can get the Snow Pro — Extra Soft Snow Rake available in different lengths of up to 30 feet, and ranging in price from $25 to $150 from RoofRake.com.
You will need to be willing to put in the time and effort to use the snow rake whenever snow begins to build up on the roof. This option is, therefore, only suitable for someone who is physically capable of clearing the snow off the roof and is not afraid to use ladder if necessary.
You will also need to be able to reach up onto the roof using the snow rake. Ideally, you should be able to do this from the ground if your home is not too tall. However, you can also use a snow rake from a stable ladder, although this is more dangerous.
If you live in a particularly tall building then a snow rake may not be appropriate for your home since it may not be possible to safely reach the roof and clear the snow.
The snow rake only needs to be able to remove snow from around the roof’s edges, not from the entire roof, so you do not need to find a rake that will enable you to clear the entire roof.
Ice Melting Cables
Ice melting cables, once installed, are one of the easiest ways of clearing snow from your roof since they simply need to be switched on to melt the snow. They are, therefore, ideal if you are unable to cope with more physically demanding methods of removal.
The cables and strips come in a number of different forms. Some of these will be more effective than others, but they can also vary a great deal in terms of their price.
Investing in high quality ice melting cables can be a good idea if you want to be able to clear ice dams quickly and easily, as soon as you see signs that one is beginning to form.
If you are simply looking for a low-cost ice melting cable solution that you can install yourself, you can get 120 feet of ice melting cables at Lowe’s for about $100.
Important Tip: You should check with your home insurance company to make sure that whatever you buy will not void your homeowner’s coverage!
Another option would be to hire a licensed contractor specializing in the installation of ice-melting systems. It would certainly be a more costly option, and you would still have check with your insurance company to make sure the system you install will not negatively affect your coverage.
Cost-wise, a professional installation of an ice-melting cable system will cost anywhere from $1,000 to $2,500 for most single family homes according to the RoofingCalc.com.
Some ice melting systems will be more attractive than others as well as more effective. The best options are those that match the rest of your roof, without standing out too obviously. Ideally, they should not stand out from the rest of your roof during the rest of the year, when there is no snow.
The heat can be produced either by electric cables or a hydronic tube system. The heat melts the snow and ice, either to clear a section of the roof or to create a break in the ice dam as it forms so that the water escapes rather than building up on the roof behind the ridge of ice.
Ice melting cables or heat tape can be simple strips to be installed upon the roof, often in a zigzag pattern. The heated cables can also be covered in squares or long plates of metal. — These panels will be made from a metal such as aluminum, which can help enhance and spread the heating effect. They can work over a larger area and they can also be designed to blend in with the roofing shingles so that they are more attractive.
Exposed heat cables and heat tape tend to be less effective than those which are placed under panels. They are also more likely to be damaged.
Other products are intended to be placed only along the edges of the roof, where the ice dams are most likely to form. They can target the most problematic areas rather than being used to heat and clear the entire roof.
Ice melting products can also come in the form of mesh mats, which can be fitted across a large area of the roof underneath the roofing material in order to melt the snow.
Different types of ice melting systems can be installed either during the construction of the roof itself or on top of the completed roof.
Some systems are installed under special metal caps, while others are simply fixed on top of the roofing shingles.
Heating cables and panels should be set up in the appropriate way for the shape of your roof, particularly focusing on the areas where different parts of the roof meet and along the eaves, gutters and downspouts.
Heating cables and strips may be placed along the edges of the roof, where the ice dams would otherwise form, or in vertical or zigzag strips that are designed to melt channels through the ice dams in order to enable water to escape. The heating cables must them be connected to a power supply.
The cables or strips can be turned on when snow or ice begins to build up on the roof. The heat will melt the snow and ice, clearing the roof and preventing ice dams from forming. It is important to turn the heating cables off once they have completed their work. If they are left on they may burn out!
Thus, heated ice removal products offer a means of removing snow and ice to prevent ice dams from forming, without having to physically remove it from the roof yourself. You simply turn on the cables or strips when necessary and wait for them to do their work. They are then turned off again.
Snow-melt salts can be used to remove ice dams from the roof, however, you should make sure that you avoid using rock salt, since this could damage or discolor your roofing.
A calcium chloride snow melt will be a better choice. The snow melt can be applied in a snow melt sock in order to ensure its effects are focused on the ice dam itself. It is best to use the snow-melt ice packs as soon as possible after the ice dam begins to form on your roof, since it will be most effective at clearing small amounts of ice.
The downside of the salt pucks is that you still have to climb the ladder to get them placed onto the roof, which is no fun, unless of course you enjoy the adventure!
The upside of relying on snow tablets is that they are relatively cheap and easy to use. You can get a bucket of snow tablets at Home Depot for about $20.
But remember, unless you can find some Eco-friendly salt packs or tablets, there will be some potential for damage to your landscaping and/or garden plants, corrosion of nails and screws on the roof and/or in the gutters, and possible discoloration of the roofing shingles or walls of the house.
So, this should not be a long term solution, as cons of using salt packs or tablets on a regular basis will probably outweigh the pros.
Rather than using ice melting cables or snow melt to deal with ice on your roof, it is possible to hack the ice away manually. You can use a sharp tool such as a chisel to break holes in the ice.
The melted snow will then be able to escape through these gaps rather than building up and leaking through your roof. It is also possible to melt gaps in the ice dam by pouring warm water over it. These can only be temporary solutions, however.
Note: If the weather remains cold, the ice dam can reform within a few days.
This option requires a lot more work than using ice melting cables or snow melt as you will need to physically break through the ice. It is also more difficult and dangerous since you will need to reach the ice formation by standing on a ladder while you are breaking it apart.
Conclusion on Hiring a Snow Removal Crews:
Although it is possible to hire people to clear ice and snow from your roof, but this can be an expensive option and it can take some time to find the right crew when there is a major snow storm resulting in higher than normal demand for snow removal, with limited supply of available crews. — This is a prime example of an ounce of prevention being worth the pound of cure.