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Steps to Prevent Ice Dams Caused by Winter Weather

Steps to Prevent Ice Dams Caused by Winter Weather

Ice dams are water blockages in the curb and gutter of the roadway that occur when water freezes and blocks drainage. Even a slight volume of water freezing can grow into an obstruction. The blockage can cause water and ice to accumulate, creating both an eyesore and a safety issue.

Ice dams can form where roof drains and sump pumps discharge at the curb and gutter. Snowfall can also create an obstruction when the water becomes trapped and could cause a backup in a resident’s basement. Ice dams could also form in a low-lying depression that could affect the integrity of driveways and roads.

When Temperatures Drop Proactively Treat Problem Areas

In my role as Marble Cliff, Ohio Village Engineer, I’ve received calls from residents concerned about ice dams on their property, and unfortunately, there is little a city or municipality can do. Instead, I advise the residents to salt the ice and break it up if the salt doesn’t appear to be working. Public Works will often take preventative measures to ensure citizen safety, such as heavily salting areas where ice dams can form.

Consider Minor Infrastructure Improvements

There are also infrastructure changes a city can make to prevent ice dams in sump pumps, such as tying sump pumps into the underdrain of the road. Although this tactic could pose a threat if the soil under the road were to become wet from the added water in the underdrain, I have not experienced this issue occurring in practice. Another innovative solution is to install a dedicated line to receive sump pump discharge. Instead of water going down the curb and gutter, there is a pipe that runs behind the curb and drains it into the storm system, similar in function to the underdrain.

When it comes to winter weather threats to safety and infrastructure, make sure you are prepared and educated. B&N can help your community make improvements to protect its residents and prevent these types of winter related challenges. Interested in more information? We can help! Contact me at

Joshua Ford, PE, Project Engineer

Joshua Ford, PE 
Project Engineer