There's no doubt that all types of weather may pose challenges to your home's roof. But winter brings its own little set of threats. If you've discovered icicles dangling from your gutters, you probably know this needs to be addressed. Here's what snow and ice can do to your roof and how you can get rid of them both.
Why it's Important
For the most part, having a little snow on the roof isn't damaging in and of itself. The problem comes when you notice icicles dangling from the gutters. This typically means you've got ice dams forming. These are ridges of frozen water that form along the edge of a roof, and they keep the melting snow from properly draining.
The result? That melting snow has nowhere to go but underneath the shingles. And eventually, it will end up leaking into your home.
Safe Removal Tips
If you feel comfortable tackling this yourself, you have a few options.
If there's a layer of snow covering the ice, the first step is to remove it with a roof rake. This is a tool that can be used from the ground, and you should be able to tackle most of the roof if you live in a one-story home. If your home is two levels, you might only be able to reach the first few feet beyond the gutters. But you can buy extensions for most rakes if needed.
Be sure to gently pull the snow from rooftop to gutter. In other words, don't rake at an angle, or you could damage your shingles if any of them happen to be exposed. If you absolutely cannot rake off all the snow, you may need to have your roof shoveled by a professional.
Using chemical deicers is another option. They can be purchased at most hardware stores and contain a number of different ingredients that are great for melting ice. Most of them come as a tablet or in crystals, and you pour them over the ice dams.
Side note - Do NOT use salt or calcium chloride to melt the ice. These products can damage your shingles, and they will drain into the ground below, killing off any plants as well as your grass.
Lastly, you can try to chip away at the ice, but this should only be done by professionals in order to prevent damage. If you decide to give it a shot, just be careful so you don't ruin your gutters or put a hole in your roof. Chip just enough to create several small channels for the melting snow to run through.
There are a couple of ways to prevent ice dams from forming and damaging your roof. The main goal here is to make sure the snow melts because of the rising temperatures outside and not because of heat escaping your home. This should result in a top-to-bottom approach as opposed to the snow melting from the bottom layer up.
One way is to achieve this is by making sure the ventilation in your attic is adequate. Experts recommend 1 square foot of ventilation per 300 square feet of attic. This will keep your attic cool in the winter and prevent heat from building up.
Secondly, if your home's insulation is up to par, there shouldn't be much heat escaping into the attic to begin with. You may need to consult with a contractor if you suspect your insulation needs updating.
Heat cables can also be installed right along or just above the gutters. When turned on, they can be effective at preventing ice dams unless you have a really heavy snow storm. Installing them, however, may take the skill of an electrician to ensure the power outlet will be out of the water (for example, underneath the roof's overhang). You also need to take care when fastening the cables so you don't puncture the shingles. When taking all that into consideration, the cost can add up quickly, so it's probably more efficient long term to address attic ventilation and insulation.
For more information, contact a roofing company like Stevens Roofing Corporation.