Ice Dam / Snow Removal in Rochester, NY

What is an Ice Dam?

Ice Dam

Cross section of one and a half story house with an ice dam. Credit:

An ice dam is a section of ice that forms at the end of a roof. It prevents snow and water from being able to drain off of the roof properly, which can cause a number of other issues.

You’ve almost certainly seen ice dams on buildings in Rochester and elsewhere. While they may look harmless, they’re not — water that remains on the roof, stuck behind an ice dam, can build up so much that it eventually leaks into the home. This can cause expensive damage to ceilings, walls, insulation, belongings and other parts of the home.

Preventing and removing ice dams in a city like Rochester, NY is especially important every winter. While removing dams may seem simple, it’s important to be careful so that you avoid damaging your roof or home.

Not every home in Rochester has an ice dam. By understanding the causes of ice dams, you can get rid of this pesky issue altogether.

What Causes Ice Dams in Rochester NY?

For some homeowners, ice dams are so common that you may have never stopped to think about why these ice formations actually occur. For ice to form only on one part of the roof, that means that the edge of the roof must be colder than the rest. There are a few distinct conditions that cause ice dams to form:


  1. Snow on the Roof: Ice dams can’t form unless they have a source of water to form into ice. That’s where the snow comes in! If snow accumulates onto your roof and then melts and runs to the edge, it’s possible that an ice dam will form
  2. Outside Temperatures Below 32°F: For ice to remain solid, outside temperatures in Rochester must remain at an average that’s below 32°F, which is the temperature at which water turns into ice.
  3. Different Surface Temperatures on the Roof: In order for ice to form at one edge of the roof and not the entire surface of the roof, the edge of the roof must be below 32°F, while the higher surfaces must be above 32°F. The warm part of the roof melts the snow into water, and when that water reaches the colder part of the roof along the edge, it accumulates into ice, eventually forming a dam. The ice dam grows as it’s fed by the melting snow. However, once it reaches the part of the roof that’s above 32°F, the water remains liquid — which can leak into your home.
    Why would the roof be at different temperatures in different areas? The heat from inside your house escapes through the roof in unequal ways. Depending on your home’s layout and insulation, heat may rise into the attic, which in turn warms the highest sections of the roof. Other sources of extra heat on the roof include chimneys and exhaust systems coming from the bathroom or kitchen.


Dealing With Ice Dams and Snow Removal in Rochester:

Whether it’s the middle of winter or you’re looking to plan ahead, there are steps that you can take to avoid the consequences of letting ice dams build up on your roof.

Short Term:
  • Drain Water: If the ice dam has already begun flooding into the home, you have an emergency on your hands. Start by aiming a hose with tap water on a warm day. This will create channels through the ice dam, allowing the backed-up water to drain off of the roof without flowing into the home. Start at the lowest edge of the dam and work upward with the hose. Keep in mind that this is only an emergency fix — the channel will stop working within days, so you’ll need a longer-term solution.
  • Remove Snow: One simple way to prevent ice dams is to remove snow from the roof. Without melted snow, an ice dam can’t form and definitely can’t cause damage. You can use a “roof rake” and push broom to remove the snow from your roof, but these tools can damage the roof if used incorrectly. You could end up with an even worse problem than an ice dam on your hands, so it’s best to call in a professional ice dam removal service in Rochester to get the job done safely. Our pros at JJ Construction are happy to help.
Long Term:


  • Tighten the Ceiling: Since warm areas of the roof are one of the necessary conditions to create an ice dam,  most long-term solutions involve preventing the roof from becoming so warm in the first place. To prevent heat from escaping through the roof, you need to first make your ceiling airtight. That means that warm air can’t travel into the attic, which is how it escapes to the roof.
  • Increase Insulation: Next, add more high-quality insulation to the ceiling and roof. The extra insulation will prevent heat from leaving the house or attic and warming the roof.
  • Home Inspection: Finally, it’s a good idea to have a professional come look at your home to ensure that it has adequate insulation and ventilation.

After you implement these long-term solutions, you’ll notice more snow on the roof of your house. All that snow that used to melt, create an ice dam, and stay trapped on the roof instead stays in the form of snow, which is harmless to any modern home. Houses in Rochester that are built to current codes can easily withstand expected snow loads, so they shouldn’t pose a problem.

Here are a couple solutions to AVOID:

  • Don’t invest too much in roof ventilation. Natural roof ventilation is important to maintain an even surface temperature on the roof, but only a small amount is needed as long as the house is insulated and airtight.
  • Mechanical attic ventilation is not recommended. While it may help prevent ice dams, it will create other additional problems — it can cause moisture issues and may increase negative pressure in the house.



Working on a roof during inclement weather puts you at risk of bodily injury and/or household damage, even if you are working on the roof from below. Contact JJ Construction for safe ice dam removal in Rochester at (545) 865-5428.