While there are several methods of removing an ice dam from the roof, Travelers recommends filling a nylon stocking with a calcium chloride ice melt and placing it across the dam. This process melts a channel through the ice to allow water to exit instead of leaking through the roof membrane. Unlike rock salt, calcium chloride does not cause damage to the roof, but it can harm nearby landscaping.
Other potential solutions include using a roof rake or similar tool to dislodge the ice dam, or to cut a passage through it, allowing the excess water to exit. While working, homeowners should avoid attempting to walk on the slippery roof, and should follow safety precautions when using a ladder. If the homeowner feels unsafe handling the problem, they should contact a contractor to remove the dam.
It is possible to prevent dams from forming by using a roof rake to remove snow directly after each storm. Homeowners should have wet snow removed before 12-inches accumulate on the roof.
A long-term solution to ice dams includes increasing the amount of insulation in the attic. Heat escaping from the home warms the snow, causing it to melt. However, as there is no heat under the roof overhangs the melted water freezes again in this area, forming the dam. As more snow falls and melts, the dam causes water to build up, increasing the potential for roof leaks.