Homeowner Helpers: Protecting your roof in winter

When it comes to protecting your roof in winter, an ounce of prevention is definitely worth a pound of cure.

Ice and snow can build up quickly on Canadian roofs, which can lead to expensive damage.

That build-up includes the dreaded ice dam along the edge of your roof. It occurs because there’s less insulation along the edge, so melting snow from higher up freezes there. That, in turn, causes snow and more ice to back up along your roof, potentially creating havoc by working its way in under shingles.

To minimize ice dams, first ensure your gutters are clean of debris so that water from your roof flows away instead of freezing in the eavestrough and creating a dam.

A roof rake is a good investment for Canadian homeowners.

After a snowfall, using a roof rake is an easy way to remove excess snow that can lead to ice dams. They cost around $60 in building materials stores like Home Depot. The pole, which extends to about 16 feet, lets you gently scrape away snow from the roof, including around dormers and vents.

The trick is to get at the snow right after it falls so it doesn’t have a chance to accumulate and start forming ice dams.

Be sure to stand well back when using a roof rake: the snow comes down with a thump, and if there’s ice in the mix, it could injure you. Remove only as much snow as you can safely reach while standing on the ground.

During the winter, do a periodic visual check of your shingles and the flashing around chimneys, roof vents and the like. If you see missing or damaged shingles or gaps in the flashing, call in a roofing contractor. A minor repair is less expensive than fixing the damage that can result from procrastination.

Remember:
  • Don’t climb on your roof to remove snow. Homeowners have died from slipping off snow-covered roofs.
  • Don’t use a ladder to remove snow. It’s too easy to lose your balance when trying to manipulate a shovel or other implement.
  • Don’t use salt to melt snow on your roof. It can discolour the shingles.
  • The jury is out on removing icicles from the edge of your roof. On the one hand, they are potentially dangerous if they overhang where people or pets walk. On the other hand, trying to remove icicles from a gutter can pull the gutter off, resulting in a costly repair. If you do decide to remove icicles, stand well back, wear a safety hat and goggles, and make sure the icicles fall away from your house so they don’t damage siding or windows. Never try removing them while standing on a ladder.
  • If you are at all uncomfortable dealing with the snow and ice problems yourself, call a roofer. Just remember to ensure the contractor is licensed and insured and that you check reviews online, including Better Business Bureau ratings.

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