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Ice Dam Removal: Much More than Steaming

Some people don’t understand our two-hour minimum. They think ice dam removal is all about jumping up on the roof with a steamer 5 minutes after arriving at the house, blasting the ice away in 30 minutes or so, and galloping off.

Our two-hour minimum serves an important purpose: It’s the only way to offer ice dam removal in an honest and up-front way.  That’s because to remove your ice dam safely takes at least two hours. 

Seaming is only part of what goes into disaster-free ice dam removal.  There is significant set-up and prep work.

First, often we’ll take a quick “before” photo of your house.  Next, we’ll unstrap our ladder and set it against your roof.  (That’s no small feat, given the icy, snowy conditions and the heavy ladder.)

Then, we’ll usually shovel your roof as much as possible before we run our steamer.  Some people flip when they see this.  They wonder why they’re paying the same amount for us to use something low-tech (a shovel) as they’re paying for us to run our high-tech, custom-built steamers.

What they may not realize is first uncover the ice dam even to see what we’re working with, at which point we can give you a guesstimate on how much time it will take to complete the job.

Sure, we could steam the snow off the roof without doing the hard, backbreaking work of shoveling it off.  But it will cost you probably 3 times as much for us to steam snow than to shovel it off the roof first and focus our steaming on the ice.  Many of our competitors will try to rip you off by not shoveling the snow.  “Hey, look, we’re steaming as fast as we can!”  They’re no different from the taxi driver who takes 3 detours to run up the meter.

Once we’ve shoveled the snow and have fully exposed the ice dam, typically we’ll come down to talk to you before we fire up the steamer.  Why?  Because if we come down with news that you’re looking at an eight-hour job, you might just tell us you don’t really have enough money for us to continue.  If that’s the case, you’ll be glad we didn’t bother to set up steamers, which itself should be an Olympic event.

Assuming it’s a green light on the steaming, now it’s time to find your spigot.  Either we’ll need you to turn on the water, or work with you to find the shut-off valve so we can turn it on ourselves.  Once that’s done, we plug in a 10-guage extension cord so we can run our heat guns, which allow us to thaw out the frozen faucet.

At this point we hope aren’t any problems, but water and winter don’t mix.  We have to take all kinds of precautions just to ensure our steamers continue to run.  For example, we have to drain anti-freeze from our steamers before we can blast steam.  If we didn’t keep anti-freeze in our steamers during their downtime (and between jobs), we’d show up with a steamer that’s frozen rock-solid.  Want an $8,000 paperweight?

Once we’ve cleared the antifreeze out of the steamer, we’ve thawed our water source (probably your spigot), we’ve put up our ladder, and we’ve removed as much snow as possible, we’re finally ready to steam!

After we’ve completed the steaming process, there’s even more work to be done.  Everything we did upon arrival now has to be undone.

We re-antifreeze our steamer and hoses, which takes time and extreme care.

We roll up our garden hose – taking care to get all the water out.

We take down the ladder, load it, and strap it down – so it’s safe for transport.

We have to take the time to take care of our equipment.  You might wonder why we do it “on the clock.”  The alternative is for it to break down when we’re on a roof (like yours) and for us to pass on to all our customers the costs of replacing the equipment.

Next, we shovel the walkways and the driveway, which are now covered with ice chunks and waterlogged snow.  If we don’t remove it, it’ll become a dangerous and immovable blob ice in its own right.

Last but not least, we’ll ask for payment, ask you if you’d like some salt spread on your driveway or sidewalks, and ask if we can take photos and leave behind a yard sign that might be a welcome sight to your neighbors.  Then we’ll be on our merry way.

It can be a shock to homeowners to see us doing all this “extra” stuff.  But it’s all part of the job.  Any honest ice dam company takes the time to take the precautions.

It’s like when your airplane takes off.  There’s the pre-flight maintenance, the pre-flight inspection, the instructions from air-traffic control, and the long taxiing down the runway.  All that may be frustrating when you just want to take off, but if they didn’t take all those precautions, you wouldn’t feel so good about taking off.

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