Roof Snow Removal & Clearing Ice Dams

I have a little story here before I get into my article.  My husband is from Alabama and has only seen a small dusting of snow in his life.  In his words, he used the entire yard to make a snowman no taller than a foot!  When he agreed to move to Idaho (my home state), he had reservations about living in the ‘tundra of the north’.  I made quite the argument that Boise has mild winters and usually the snow does not stick around.  Cue moving to Boise and the first winter he experiences is the harshest one in 30 years! While he has not fully made up his mind about how he feels, I have been able to share some of his snow firsts: making a snow angel, tubbing at Bogus Basin, doughnuts in the parking lot, and of course, snow ball fights.

Like my husband, we have a lot of new Idahoans who have never experienced such a winter and with more snow in the forecast, I think the best thing we can do is educate everyone about how to remove snow from their roofs and prevent/remove ice dams.

Clearing Snow from Roofs

Two major reasons for removing snow from roofs is to prevent the formation of ice dams and to prevent roof collapse from the excess weight.

As a rule of thumb, one square-foot of snow that’s one inch in depth weighs about a pound.  If your roof has 12 inches of snow on it, it could easily be thousands of extra pounds of stress on your roof. Minimizing the stress placed on your roof is a great way to minimize the risk of leaking and cave-ins (the latter of which occur more frequently than you might think).

Roof-Raking is generally the best way to remove snow from your roof.  If your home is a one-story home then a roof rake will most likely be able to reach most or all of your roof. If you live in a taller home, roof-raking is an excellent way to clear the overhangs.  This can help relieve excess weight on the weakest part of your roof (the overhangs) as well as aid in ice dam prevention.

Of course, roof-raking has its limitations.  Unless you live in a one-story home, it’s often hard to rake any higher than the overhangs, even if you buy extension rods for your rake.  It’s also difficult to use a roof rake to clear the snow out of your roof valleys (because the rake is flat and the surface is angular).  In addition, roof-raking often isn’t particularly effective at removing wet, heavy, or hardened snow from your roof.

As a snow-removal technique, shoveling picks up where roof-raking leaves off.  Your roof probably needs to be shoveled (a) after a storm drops too much snow for you to remove with a rake, (b) if the snow is too heavy or hardened for your roof rake, or (c) if your roof is too large or tall for you to be able to rake it.

Shoveling is probably the better option for roof snow removal when there’s heavy lifting to be done, or when you want your roof completely cleared (so as to minimize the chances of a cave-in or the formation of ice dams).

Click here for some simple Do’s and Don’ts for clearing snow from your roof.

Ice Dams

While someone might argue that ice dams are beautiful to look at, they can also be extremely damaging to your home. Dams can tear off gutters, loosen shingles, and cause water to back up and pour into your house. When that happens, the results aren’t pretty: peeling paint, warped floors, stained and sagging ceilings. Not to mention soggy insulation in the attic, which loses R-value and becomes a magnet for mold and mildew.

Most ice dams occur on the lowest edge of your roof as described above. We frequently find them in other locations, however.  Below is a diagram by Steve Kuhl from the Ice Dam Company on the anatomy of an ice dam.


One way to prevent ice dams is to attach heated cables in a zig-zag pattern on your roof’s edge.  Heated cables combat ice dams by equalizing your roof’s temperature instead of blowing in cold air from the inside. Just be sure to install the cables before bad weather hits.

Generally, heavy ice dams are a sign of a larger issue at hand – Poor construction quality and poor insulation.  This article by This Old House explains in detail how to upgrade your roof and insulation to prevent ice dams from forming.

If ice dams have already formed, then there are several quick fixes to remove them.

Blow in cold air – Take a box fan into the attic and aim it at the underside of the roof where water is actively leaking in. This targeted dose of cold air will freeze the water in its tracks.


Rake It – Pull off snow with a long-handled aluminum roof rake while you stand safely on the ground. A rake with wheels, like the one shown here, will instantly change the exterior temperature of your roof without damaging shingles.

Pantyhose! – You can also diminish the damage after the dam has formed with…panty hose! Fill the leg of discarded pair of panty hose with a calcium chloride ice melter. Lay the hose onto the roof so it crosses the ice dam and overhangs the gutter. If necessary, use a long-handled garden rake or hoe to push it into position. The calcium chloride will eventually melt through the snow and ice and create a channel for water to flow down into the gutters or off the roof.

If you are feeling overwhelmed with the idea of clearing your snow and ice dams or simply do not want to get out into the cold, call us here at Allegiance.  We have a crew on standby ready to work for you.


Scanlon-Alexandra--225x300Article by Alexandra Scanlon; Owner/Operator of Allegiance Property Management

Tired of your current residential property management?  If you are ready to experience a true customer service guaranteed management company, call us today at 208.353.4545.

Allegiance Property Management serves the local Boise, Eagle, Meridian, Nampa, Caldwell, and surrounding Treasure Valley. We not only focus on assisting homeowners find great, long term tenants but also assist investors in ensuring their assets are continuously performing within their portfolios.  We are here to meet the needs of all our clients.

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