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Ice Dams by the Numbers: Facts & Figures on Ice Dam Removal, Prevention, & More

Some people are visual learners, others prefer detailed explanations, and just about everybody likes numbers – especially when those numbers are easy to digest and easy to remember.  We’ve got some numbers / facts / figures / statistics on ice dams for you right here.

As far as we know, there’s no organization that studies ice dams (most of us just want to forget about them and move on!).  So please keep in mind that these numbers come from us, Ice Dam Guys®, and are based on our unequaled experience: in 20+ years we’ve removed many thousands of ice dams in 20+ states.


How much roof snow do you need to get an ice dam?

1 inch of snow can be enough for an ice dam to form, under just the right conditions.  But that’s rare.  Usually 6 inches or more of snowfall is when you should become more concerned about ice dams, which is why our advice is to rake your roof after 6 inches of snow has accumulated.


How long does it take for an ice dam to form on a roof?

24 hours is about the least amount of time required for an ice dam to form.


On average, how big is an ice dam that causes roof leaks?

4-6 inches thick and typically spanning at least one overhang on one side of the roof.


How big is the smallest ice dam?

3 inches thick and 1 foot wideroughly – most often found in a roof valley.


How big is the largest ice dam?

3 feet thick, 75 feet long, and stretching halfway up the slope of the roof is about the biggest ice dam we’ve ever seen.  Several feet in thickness is not ultra-uncommon when talking about the biggest ice dam.  We’ve removed ice dams that have grown to several feet in thickness, and crawled all the way to the ground.

How hot does a roof need to be to cause ice dams?

32F or higher – in other words, any temperature above freezing.  The warmer the roof, the more quickly snow will melt and refreeze lower on the roof.


How much water needs to dam up on my roof to cause a roof leak?

Less than 1 gallon of water sitting behind an ice dam can cause roof leaks.  Leakage depends less on how much water there is, and more on where the water has dammed up and on how long it sits there.


How much water can leak through the roof because of an ice dam?

Infinite amounts of water.  Whatever amount of snow is on your roof (melted) is what can leak into your home through your roof.  That can easily be hundreds of gallons.

How much does an ice dam weigh, on average?

A few thousand pounds, at least for an ice dam that has caused roof leaks.  Very small ice dams weigh as little as a few hundred pounds or maybe a thousand pounds, and of course big ice dams on big roofs can weigh many thousands of pounds.  (All of those numbers are educated guesses, based on our 20+ years of professional ice dam removal.)


How much does roof snow weigh?

1 inch of snowfall on the roof weighs about 1 pound per square foot on average.  That means, for example, if you’ve got three inches of snow and you have an average-sized 2000-square-foot roof, your roof is holding roughly 6000 pounds of snow.  For more detail, see our page on “How Much Does Roof Snow Weigh?


How many ice dams melt on their own (without ice dam removal)?

100%.  All ice dams go away by themselves – eventually.  The question is how much damage they inflict on your home before Mother Nature melts them.  There’s a good chance you can’t wait for that to happen.


How warm is too warm for ice dams to form?

32F or higher at night is warm enough that ice dams can’t form.  As long as the lows don’t dip below freezing, any melted snow can’t refreeze into ice.


What is the average total cost of ice dam removal?

$2700-4500 is about average, but we can’t stress enough that that’s a ROUGH number.  Every ice dam is unique in its shape, density, location, size, etc. Thus your ice dam removal job may not fall within what we refer to as “the average.”  Many factors can make ice dam removal more difficult and take longer (much longer).


How much does ice dam removal cost per hour, on average?

$475-$875 an hour is the average cost of professional ice dam removal, roughly.  That number is based on what we’ve seen in 20+ years as ice dam removal professionals.  If you find ice dam removal offered for less than about $475 an hour, or for more than about $875 an hour, either you’ve found a rookie or an unethical company has found you.


How long does ice dam removal take, on average?

4-6 hours, if we had to say the most-common length of an ice dam removal job, but the duration varies a LOT (from as little as 2 hours to as much as several days)  Even a relatively smooth ice dam removal job often can take much longer for a variety of reasons, including if the roof is large, if the weather is bad, if the roof is hard to access or navigate, if an ice dam climbs farther up the roof than just a few feet, if access to water is difficult, or because of other factors.  Note: If you have a smaller-than average home, that does not necessarily mean you’ll fall into or below the average duration of ice dam removal.


How much ice dam removal does insurance cover, usually?

$00.00 of ice dam removal is typically covered by homeowner’s insurance.  But in some cases you may be able to get it partially or even entirely covered.  It depends on many factors.


How many people does it take to steam an ice dam on a roof?

1 person is needed to steam an ice dam.  The technician sets up the steamer on the ground, and climbs onto the roof with the hose and wand to remove the ice dam.  The only time more than one person is of benefit is if each additional person has his own steamer.  Multiple people with one steamer often is just a way to make you feel you’re getting more for your dollar – when in fact you’re not (especially if you’re paying per “man-hour”).


How far in advance do most ice dam removal companies book?

1 week or a few days – or less, in many cases.


How much does the average ice dam steamer cost?

$3000-4000 is the average cost of a typical off-the-shelf unit labeled and sold as an “ice dam steamer.”


How much does the best ice dam steamer cost?

$8000-$9000 per unit is the rough average cost of the highest-end ice dam steamers, because of all the customizations required to make adjustable the temperature, pressure, volume, and shape of the steam output.


How much money does an ice dam removal technician make?

About 20% of the total job cost, although every company is different.  Because of the seasonal nature of the work, ice dam removal technicians don’t take a salary.  At least in our company and for our customers, the “percentage of job” payment system works well, because it means our technicians don’t have a perverse incentive to cram in so many jobs that they cut corners – the way other companies’ technicians might if they were paid a flat amount per job.


What R-value is recommended for insulation to prevent ice dams?

60 is an R-value often recommended by energy auditors.  No amount of insulation can guarantee that you don’t get ice dams (partly because other factors can cause ice dams), but getting your insulation to an R-value of 60 will at least lessen your vulnerability to ice dams.


What temperature should your home (indoor living space) be to prevent ice dams?

68 degrees is ideal, but cranking up your thermostat any higher than about 70 degrees just exacerbates the problem of heat escaping into your attic (especially if you have a home or business with a history of ice dam problems).  Turn down the heat and grab a blanket.


What pitch of roof is ice-dam-proof (too steep for ice dams to form)?

A 12:12 pitch (or greater pitch) of roof makes it very difficult for ice dams to form.  Still, no roof is impervious to ice dams.


How many salt pucks does it take to melt an average-sized ice dam?

0.  Salt pucks don’t work.

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