Icicles are pretty. Icicles are also a red flag that you've got ice dams on your roof and you need to take care of the situation quickly to minimize water damage. Like an iceberg, the icicles are the most visible part of ice dams. The icicles are attached to the ice dam hiding under the snow at the edge of your roof.
The ice dam is solid and won't leak into your home but it's a dam and behind the dam, there is a pool of water that collects as the snow further up on your roof melts. It's this water that can't drain that ultimately finds it's way inside your home causing lots of damage. Icicles and ice dams mean big trouble!
This article is the second in a series of 3 articles on ice dams – why they happen, quick fixes when they happen and most important, how to prevent them from happening again.
- Ice Dams: Why You Have Them & Why You Don't Want Them
- Pantyhose a Quick Fix to Melt Ice Dams … this article!
- Preventing Ice Dam Problems
Removing Snow From Your Roof
When you've got icicles like those above, it's time to figure out the best strategy for removing the snow from your roof. Removing the snow, removes the water that forms ice dams and icicles. Snow or roof rakes (RoofRake.com) are the best tool to remove snow from your roof, as they come on long poles so you can use them from the ground. Roof rakes come with handles up to 36 feet long. Better roof rakes have wheels on the lower edge to minimize touching the roof surface which is brittle in cold weather, making it vulnerable to damage.
Roof rakes need to be purchased in advance as they sell out quickly when snow storms wreak havoc across the US. Buy or order your snow rake after your first snowfall as an ounce of prevention is worth far more than the cost (stress, time and money) of potential damage.
Emptying the Pool of Water Behind an Ice Dam
Once you've removed the snow on your roof, you've got to get rid of the water pooled up behind the ice dams. Do not chip away at the ice dam as you're likely to damage the shingles underneath. Applying heat has it's own set of risks that should be obvious, as working from a ladder or standing on a roof with ice or snow is never recommended.
The most common “short term” solution to getting this water off your roof is to fill pantyhose with a calcium chloride melter to create a channel that allows water to run off the roof. Place the pantyhose across the ice dam with one end extending up beyond the dam and the other end hanging out past the roof and gutter. Use a tall pole, i.e. a broom or garden rake, to push the pantyhose into position. Check the pantyhose periodically as it might shift as the ice melts.
Do not spread rock salt or calcium chloride across your entire roof as these chemicals are corrosive and can reduce the life of your roof flashing, along with metal gutters and downspouts. In large concentrations, these chemicals will also damage nearby shrubs and grass. Calcium chloride is less harmful than rock salt.
Roof and Ladder Safety
Many homeowners assume that a handyman or roofer can easily climb up on their roof to remove the snow and ice. This simply isn't true. Consider how many people slip on an icy walkway or driveway and twist an ankle or worse, break a bone when they fall a few feet to the ground. Consider how seriously someone can get hurt when they fall off a roof.
There are similar concerns about working on a tall ladder that cannot be securely sunk into the ground. With the ground frozen and covered with snow, it's almost impossible to place a ladder against a home safely. The gutters and/or roof edge may also be compromised by ice damage and trust me, when one of your employees falls off a ladder, it's not fun!