Warm weather allows ice dam preparation time

Roof rakes, insulation checks the best remedies, experts say

Published On: Jan 10 2013 10:29:51 PM CST   Updated On: Jan 11 2013 07:38:25 AM CST

Unseasonably warm weather across the Madison area Thursday had some people interested in clearing their roofs of snow before a deep freeze later in the week.

The December blizzard, which dropped more than a foot of snow across the area, led to ice dams on roofs. The dams form when heat from the home escapes and warms the snow into water, which hits metal gutters and refreezes. Water behind the resulting ice has nowhere to go but through the shingles.

The most effective way to clear the snow is with a roof rake, said Larry Roth at Dorn True Value Hardware in Madison. Home remedies include filling old pantyhose with ice melt, but Roth advised against that if you have asphalt shingles.

"The ice melt doesn't say it's safe for roofs, so you're taking it into your own hands if you put it up there," he said, instead pointing out a $21 tub of salt pellets that look like white hockey pucks.

Roth said to throw them about four feet from the gutters, which would help melt snow and ice down the roof.

WISC-TV tried the technique and found, over the first four hours, the salt pellets only melted the area directly around them. In other words, consumers might need to use a lot of them.

But other remedies can be dangerous. If the roof rake isn't long enough, the user has to stand on a ladder, increasing the chance of a slip-and-fall accident.

Renee Wilson, president of Rockweiler Insulation in Verona, said the best technique is prevention.

It starts with homeowners making sure they have enough insulation, good circulation in their attics, and no air leaks above their ceilings, she said.

"If they poke their head in their attic and they can see the trusses -- usually they're either two by eight or two by six -- if they can see that wood, then they want to give us a call because that's not enough (insulation)," she said.

Wilson said all the prevention in the world isn't enough on some homes with odd roof angles or cathedral ceilings, which are more prone to ice dams.

In that case, a call to a roofer is a good idea, she said.