Never Chop A Roof

roof-ice-chop-116x300Posted on Friday, February 14th, 2014 by Nathan Weinstock

It has been a tough winter here in Ottawa.  The cold weather and heavy snow have made it particularly demanding to do home inspections, especially on the outside.  They have also made just living and getting around tough.  And the trying conditions created by this winter are especially hard on our houses.

The deep blanket of snow and the arctic temperatures have contributed to the build-up of ice on many of our roofs.  I have talked about roof ice damming in the blog entry: “Scary Ottawa Ice” posted on 02/03/2011.  Click back to the past blog posts and check it out.

Once you have an ice build-up, it is really difficult to get rid of it.  Many things are tried.  Generally these have limited success.  Sometimes they can cause serious damage, or be down right DANGEROUS.

First thing to know is never climb on a roof in winter.  Never place yourself at serious risk. Hire an experienced professional to do the work if you must try something.  They should know how to take the right safety measures.  Stopping any water leak is not worth breaking your neck for.

Also, never use a torch or any open flame to try and melt the ice.  You can easily start a fire and burn your house down.  Again, it is not worth it.

Finally, never use an ax, or pick, or any kind of chopper to try and break up the ice (see the picture).  This will certainly damage shingles or roof covering.  So when the ice finally melts, the water will have an easier time of getting into your house making the leak and the resulting damage that much worse.  Then, not only do you have to face repairing the damage the water may have caused, you also have to fix or even replace the roof.

The best offense is a good defense.  Do your best to keep ice from forming on your roof in the first place.  Increase the levels of insulation and ventilation under your roof to help keep the snow from melting and then re-freezing into ice.  And pull the snow off your roof if you can do it safely from the ground with a roof rake.

As a rule, once the ice has formed, you are pretty much stuck with it until the warm temperatures finally arrive (and yes they will come) and nature helps you out.