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When “This Old House” Gives out Bad Ice Dam Advice

When you’re looking for ice dam removal advice online it’s important to stick to blogs written by ice dam removal specialists.  Why?  Because we do the job day in and day out, and have gotten to know the complex nature of something that seems like just a hunk of ice to most other people.

And the advice that’s elsewhere on the Internet just can’t be trusted. In fact, you can’t even trust some of this advice if it comes from sources that are usually quite on-target when it comes to home maintenance and home improvement.

I’ve called out other articles before, like this wounded animal I found on But nobody really expects to be a great source for much of anything—the content there is fueled by writers who get paid a pittance, and who often just regurgitate what they find elsewhere on the Web – the good and the bad.

But then you get bad advice on ice dams even from This Old House.  I expected more.  This Old House has been an authority on home improvement.  I’ve always thought Norm Abram is a cool guy with an underappreciated wardrobe.

Their advice surprised me like a chunk of ice on the head.  This Old House wants you to put salt in pantyhose and throw it across the ice dam.  The idea is the salt will eventually melt through the ice dam.

First of all, there’s a real possibility that that will damage or discolor your roof.  Unless you’re living in a thatched hut, you probably care a little about how your roof looks.  The pantyhose won’t do a thing to stop the salt damage.  It’s just a disposable vehicle in which to heave the salt onto your roof.

Second, if you’ve got an imminent roof leak you should know the “pantyhose method” won’t work quikly enough to help you.  You don’t have time to waste if pieces of your ceiling are about to shout “Geronimo!”  You need to call an ice dam removal pro so you can get a steamer up there.

I know This Old House won’t tell you to call a professional, because their deal is showing you how to roll up your sleeves and “do it yourself.”  And in general they excel at that, and give decent advice.  Want to remodel your kitchen or finish your basement?  We’d still listen to This Old House for those sorts of things.  But just as we wouldn’t tell Norm how to do a plunge-cut or use a radial arm saw, we hope you’ll listen to ice dam removal specialists when we say that pantyhose won’t help you against a multi-ton ice dam.

For the record, there simply isn’t any DIY ice dam removal advice that would qualify as good advice.  There’s simply no safe, damage-free way to go about it

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