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20 Years of Ice Dam Experience – Here’s What It Looks Like

When I began removing ice dams nearly 20 years ago I could count the number of ice dam removal companies on one hand. The industry was brand-new. The only people who talked about ice dams were commiserating neighbors. We were one of the first to address this problem.

These days, there are hundreds and hundreds of ice dam people claiming they’ve all “been in business” for 20 years. They may have been plowing snow for 20 years, but most of them have only been removing ice dams for a few years (if that). Some of them may have even decided to start offering ice dam removal services this year. You have to be careful.  These pretend experts brag about how long they’ve “been in business” but how long have they actually been removing ice dams?

That’s why I want to share some quick stories and photos with you. Mostly to illustrate that we have been around for many moons, but also as an admission on my part that it took us some time to get ice dam removal down pat.  I hope you’ll consider calling Ice Dam Guys® because we’ve got the hard knocks, the experience, and the expertise along the way.

Anyway, Gentle Reader, here is a picture of me up on a roof in the ‘90s (the photo doesn’t show my haircut, thank goodness). I’m dispatching one our first ice dams. In my hand you’ll see something we no longer use: a big pressure washer.

You see, we started out as a pressure washing and landscape company. We used the big machines to wash commercial brick buildings. We hadn’t even given much thought to ice until one day a contractor I did some work for called me up.

“Hey, Joe. You got one of those hot water pressure washers, don’t you?”

“Yup,” I said.

“I’ve got some ice for you to melt. Can you do it?”

I’ve never been one to turn away from a challenge. I said, “Sure I can do it.” That evening we did our very first ice dam job, long before we’d ever even heard the term “ice dam.” It was a commercial building. The scuppers were frozen solid with ice. There was a big roof leak waiting to happen, but we weren’t even thinking about that.

We were 20-something years old. It was 2 in the morning. We were having the time of our lives, melting ice with hot water in the middle of winter – and making solid money doing it.  Are you kidding me?  This was truly awesome!

We continued to do work for the same contractor, again doing commercial buildings for the most part. Pictured above is one of them.

As we did those buildings, people would stop us and ask what we were doing. And as we explained, we’d hear, “Hey. I’ve got some ice too. It’s causing some trouble. I didn’t realize you could just melt it. Want to come over to my place next?”

The next thing you know; we’re inundated with jobs. We got some yard signs and put them out at every house and building we deiced.

Meanwhile, we’re trying to figure out how to do things better. We started wondering what would happen if we purchased a pressure washer that got even hotter than ours did.  We noticed that pressure washers could cause a bit of roof damage (which we paid for every time) and we noticed they weren’t going as fast as we might have liked. We wanted something even hotter.

That’s when we found steamers. We found these units that could either pressure-wash or steam depending on how high you turned the dial up and on how much you restricted the water flow. So we started using the steamer/pressure washer combos, and they worked very well.

Business grew. So we started running some newspaper ads. We built our website. Years later, we got featured on the news for the first time, and appeared on the news every winter thereafter.

By the time we made it onto the news, public awareness of ice dams had started to increase. That’s when we decided we could do ice dam removal full-time and have the economics work well for our customers (as well as for us). Around that time, we decided we needed an even better solution, so we started customizing our own machines with all of the knowledge we’d gathered over years of working. Now we use steam, with no “high pressure” pressure-washing component. We don’t recommend those anymore. We may have gotten our start that way, before anybody knew any better, but these days we know that steam is the best way to go.

Look at all that steam, doing its thing. You can really see the difference in this photo, taken in Winter of 2015.

When you hire us you’re hiring nearly 20 provable years in the school of hard knocks.

We’ve learned what to do and what not to do. We’ve learned what works and what doesn’t. We’ve learned how to be faster, more efficient, and better in every respect.  We didn’t have anyone to copy, anything to read, or anyone to help educate us.

Sure, everyone has to start somewhere. We certainly did. We were newbies once, just like those pseudo-ice dam companies trying to hide behind their 20 years of asphalt-pouring or gutter-cleaning experience.

One hopes they’ll take their licks, as we did. But even once upon a time, if you had to hire newbies, we were the newbies to hire. That’s because even then we carried ourselves ethically, and I paid for any roof damage I caused on the rare occasions I caused any. I learned pretty quickly how to improve my ice dam removal technique. If I didn’t, I couldn’t have stayed in business! Some companies out there trying to sell you ice dam removal services won’t do that. They’ll cut and run. You might not be able to find them tomorrow. There’s a low barrier to entry in this business, unfortunately.

Even if they do take their licks, it is not your job as the homeowner to pay for someone else’s learning curve. If you’re worried about them, don’t be. They’ll find the business. Many homeowners find they can’t even get through to the few reputable companies if they wait too long during ice dam season. Hire the best, most reputable ice dam company you can reach. Do it early – earlier than anyone else. By doing so, you greatly decrease the chances of dealing with damage and greatly increase your chances of getting the job done right and at a reasonable cost.

We’ve enjoyed the last 20 years of removing ice dams safely and ethically for homeowners, and hope to do it for another 20 years.  Though we hope you never get an ice dam, we hope to help you and get to know you if you ever do.

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