Tips for removing snow and ice from your roof

A visible inspection of your roof line can reveal a buildup of snow and ice and an accumulation of icicles. (Photo courtesy of Angie's List member Donna B. of Mendota Heights, Minn.)

A visible inspection of your roof line can reveal a buildup of snow and ice and an accumulation of icicles. (Photo courtesy of Angie's List member Donna B. of Mendota Heights, Minn.)

Dangling, jagged icicles aren’t just a danger to people. An abundance of icicles could indicate potential hazards to your home.

“If you do not have gutter guards, then icicles are a good indication that ice damming is occurring,” says Cody Hergott, a regional manager with Bone Dry Roofing, Inc. in Indianapolis.

An ice dam is a ridge of ice that forms at the edge of a roof and prevents melting snow from draining off the roof.

Related: How to Keep Ice Dams from Damaging Your Roof

“That water starts to back up underneath the shingles and eventually work its way into the interior of the home,” Hergott says. “The best way to prevent it is to make sure the ventilation in the attic space is properly balanced and to make sure that your insulation levels are at code or greater.”

The Department of Energy recommends R-38 to R-60 insulation for attics in central Indiana.

If left unattended, an ice dam buildup could lead to disastrous results, including wet interior walls and carpets, or a flooded basement. Some damage from an ice dam is easily recognizable, while some is not so obvious.

“Typically, if this happens, it looks like a leak across the entire ceiling of the room at the exterior wall,” Hergott says. “(If you see) water drip out of your soffit, your overhang, that means water is backing up underneath the shingles and is going to either get to the interior of the house or is already damaging the soffit by rotting it from the inside out.”

A visible inspection of your roofline can reveal a buildup of snow and ice and an accumulation of icicles. A reputable roofing contractor with a valid Indianapolis General Contractor license can remove ice dams and inspect the roof and home for damage. Hergott says that service typically costs about $225. Some landscaping companies also offer roof snow and ice removal services.

“A lot of people don’t know who to call or don’t know what to really do about it,” says Don McCauley with E-Z Green Lawn Service in Indianapolis, who says his roof ice and snow removal costs range from $100-$500. “We make sure we’re secure, then we break lose the ice. We use rubber mallets to break the ice dam out, so water can flow off the roof freely and not back into house. We had one lady call and water was coming through her light fixture in her kitchen. It was because of an ice dam and it was quite a mess.”

For the do-it-yourselfers, there are roof salt products that can help thaw ice, Hergott says. Avoid using salt or calcium chloride to melt snow off the roof, as they are very corrosive and the runoff can also damage grass and plants. There are also many different types of gutter screens, covers and heat systems, each designed to keep debris, water and ice from building up in gutters. For snow removal, there are products called “roof rakes” that a homeowner can use from the ground. To avoid damaging shingles, carefully pull it down the slope of the roofline, never across the roof. However, these are all preventative measures. Once you have ice buildup, it’s time to call in a professional, as trying to tackle this job yourself can be quite dangerous.

“We would never recommend a homeowner getting on their roof and actually chipping out an ice dam,” Hergott says.

Editor's note: This article was originally published in January of 2011.

Angie Hicks is a Fishers resident and founder of Angie's List, a national provider of ratings in more than 720 categories of service.

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