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Ice Dams

Ice Dam Removal Face Off: Chisels vs Steamers

December 12, 2022 | 2 min. read

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Ice dams are the main culprit of winter roof issues. Are you experiencing roof or basement leaks in the winter? Ice dams may be the reason.

But all hope is not lost. Ice dams don’t last forever – and we don’t mean you have to wait until spring. There are two popular methods of ice dam removal in the roofing industry: chisels and steamers. 

Which method is the best? We’re going to find out.

Rescue My Roof has been an expert in the roofing industry for over a decade. We’ve faced many Wisconsin winters, and when it comes to ice dam removal, we’re pros. 

Today we’ll walk you through the ins-and-outs of ice dam removal methods.  Ultimately, you’ll learn which method is best for your roof when the winter winds hit. 

Ice Dam Removal Methods

There are two primary methods of ice dam removal within the roofing industry: steamers and chisels. 

While steamers have become the most popular method, chisel removal is still around. 

Here’s what you need to know:

Ice Dam Steam Machines

Roofer using a steam machine to melt snow and ice near the gutters.

Steam machines use hot water vapor to melt the ice build up on your roof.

This method is safer for your roof, as the steam does not do damage to the shingles or cause granule loss.  There’s also no chemicals or high pressure, which makes it the most effective option. 

Steam machines also require less labor. So despite the cost to run the machine, both methods have the same price ranges for ice dam removal services. 

Benefits of Steam Removal:

  • Safer for your roof
  • No granule loss
  • Less labor
  • Can be done in 3 – 4 hours 

Disadvantages of Steam Removal:

  • Harder to DIY
  • Have to call in professionals

Ice Dam Chisel Removal

Less common in the roofing industry is the use of a chisel to remove ice dams. 

People will use chisels, mallets, or hammers to chip away at the ice dam. While this is the easiest ice dam removal method to DIY, it can be harmful to your roof.

The force of chipping away at the ice cam crack shingles or lead to granule loss, negatively impacting the health of your roof. 

Additionally, chisel removal is more labor intensive. So while there’s no cost to run any machines, there is an added labor cost that puts the chisel method in the same price range as steam removal. 

Benefits of Chisel Removal

  • Easier to DIY
  • Cost-effective

Disadvantages of Chisel Removal

  • Granule loss
  • Cracked shingles
  • Increased risk of leaks

Steam Machines vs. Chisels – Which is Safer?

Roofing contractor on a roof, using a steam machine to melt icicles on the gutters.

When it comes to the health of your roof, a steam machine is the safest ice dam removal method.

The low pressure steam system avoids the risk of cracked shingles or granule loss, decreasing the risk of leaks in the long-run. 

So even if you’re tempted to go with the easiest removal method to DIY, ultimately the steam method is the best for your home. 

On the bright side, there is not a big cost difference. Either method will cost you a minimum of $300 – 400 minimum, with an additional hourly charge.

You can learn more about ice dams with “Ice Dams: the Main Culprit of Winter Roof Issues” and “Ice Dam Removal Pricing.”

If your home needs saving from the nasty Wisconsin winter, Rescue My Roof is here to help.Contact us today to get a free roof estimate