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Posted on Fri, Feb 4, 2011 : noon

How to roof rake your home

By Keith A. Paul

With snow piling up on my roof I am afraid it might do damage or worse yet cave in. What can I do?
- Lisa, Ypsilanti, MI

This week, I have talked to many people with this same concern. The fact is, snow along with ice could cause roof damage. The threat of collapse is a very low probability, but possible. As I stated in my Feb. 10, 2010 article “Preventing ice dams,” sometimes snow can weigh up to 30 pounds per square foot. On a 1500-square-foot house with a roof surface area of 1600 square feet, that’s 48,000 pounds or more on your roof! Some roofs aren’t built to withstand that amount of weight. The weight of a large amount of snow and ice can also cause damage to your gutters and downspouts.

The damage mostly occurs when the snow melts and refreezes underneath the snow where it meets the shingles. Snow melts because of the heat from the attic, then drains to the gutters and refreezes. Now, the water and ice accumulates and works back up the roof growing underneath the shingles causing damage, and in many cases melts into the house.

Using a roof rake will help you alleviate some of the stress on both you and your roof. A roof rake is a solid piece of metal or plastic about 16 to 20 inches wide on the end of an extension pole, which allows you to rake or pull snow off the roof. They can be purchased at most local hardware stores. Remove as much snow as possible from the top of the roof down toward the gutters. About 10 to 15 feet should be sufficient. Never remove the snow while on top of the roof. For obvious reasons, it is a slippery slope and snow isn’t as soft as you think to land in.


Photo by Midwest Rake

Apply calcium chloride to all ice in gutters and down spouts. Do not use sodium chloride (rock salt) or table salt, it can cause damage to your landscape greenery. I’ve seen homeowners insert calcium chloride into panty hose and lay them inside the gutters, it was successful to remove the ice. To apply, I recommend tossing it up into the gutters. It sounds funny, but it really is the best way.

There is controversy over whether or not to use a ladder when removing the snow. I believe it is much safer not to use a ladder because when the ice and snow melts, it can accumulate on the rungs of the ladder and refreeze in minutes. This is definitely a slippery and hazardous situation. You can easily fall and get seriously hurt.

Lastly, if your home continually has a problem with ice damming, have a professional check your home for proper roof ventilation and insulation. You may consider having heat tape installed in those problem areas along your roof then you’d be able to melt the ice with a flick of a switch. Heat tape is a low temp electrical cord that is normally placed along the perimeter of the roof, in the roof valleys and in the gutters and downspouts to keep the water moving during the frigid winter months. It should be installed by a professional.

Stay warm!

Paul is a State of Michigan Licensed Builder. Paul serves as president and founding member of Nationally franchised HandyPro Handyman Service, servicing Washtenaw, Wayne and Oakland Counties. Listen to Paul every Saturday at 11 a.m. on “It’s Your Home, Let’s Talk About It” WAAM Talk 1600AM. Email questions or comments to


Pam Stout

Wed, Feb 9, 2011 : 4:23 p.m.

Keith Paul asked me to post the following responses for him: ________________________________ Hi AlphaAlpha, Thanks for the comments. I get the &quot;Paul&quot; thing all the time, no worries. The prices vary for roof raking I've seen it from 95-150 for a one story and 150-250 for a second story. As always, be sure to make sure the company is insured for your protection. As for the roof support, its true, built correctly you shouldn't have any issues. But check out these houses, get out <a href="," rel='nofollow'>,</a> AND <a href="" rel='nofollow'></a> Shepard145- I respect your right to disagree with me, and I agree that the time to resolve the core issue of ice dams is prevention during the warm months. However, some of the well vented and insulated homes have ice dams and they need to be removed asap. Unfortunately, our company completes many repairs during heavy snow falls, like this one. (We already are receiving repair calls). My goal is to communicate to our readers to remove the snow and ice now on the roof edges and be cautious. KJMCLark, I'm with you, love the winter myself. My daughter enjoyed the large amount of snow falling on her head as well, good times. ____________


Tue, Feb 8, 2011 : 2:18 a.m.

Because it was in the woman's original question? I found the article superficial - the kind of advice one would get at the local hardware store. The article missed the bigger point about ice dams, which is that they are not a mystery and if a home is subject to them, corrections should be made. ...but don't get me wrong, homey advice has it's place as well. Without it, the winter would be less exciting since NOBODY would throw their salt filled pantyhose up on their roofs!! LOL ....but don't use salt, that would be ridiculous! LOL


Mon, Feb 7, 2011 : 6:49 p.m.

I do not know why two of the comments are strongly based on the roof collapse statement. In this article Mr. Paul barely mentions and states that it is a low probability. But in my line of work I have seen it happen. I find the article very helpful to a homeowner that is interested in removing the high volume of snow accumulated on their roof. Every year, weather a homeowner thinks they are prepared or are educating themselves no due to necessity, I have seen high volume of damage due to ice damming. Thank you Mr. Paul for you enlightening article.


Sun, Feb 6, 2011 : 6:02 p.m.

Most houses built within the last 20+ years trusses were engineered for a snow load but it would help to have the information of your trusses (like pitch, 2x materail, span and spacing) to help estimate what the engineered loads are for your trusses. I would think that building architect would have had the roof engineered to account for snow along with the approval of the local building code. Unless you live in house with a flat roof I wouldn't be too concerned, or with large spans like commercial buildings that do not maintain nor remove snow as needed.


Sun, Feb 6, 2011 : midnight

My kids ***LOVE*** the roof rake. (OK, my kids are a bit goofy - they get it from their mom.) They stand right under where I'm raking, with hoods up on their winter coats, and get plastered by the snow falling down. The deeper the snow I'm pulling off the roof, the more fun they have. They like this about as much as bringing icicles in the house to eat. We really like winter.


Sat, Feb 5, 2011 : 10:19 p.m.

Where to start…. Why does Lisa think her roof is not constructed to handle snow in Michigan? Was it built in Florida and trucked here? Any code compliant house will handle the snow just fine. The weight is calculated by square foot so the total load on your roof is irrelevant when judging whether or not the structure is sufficient. If you have a very old house, you might wonder why it survived decades of snow storms and now suddenly a danger. This is not the time to fix an ice dam by fiddling with your roof and a "roof rake", whatever that is. The time to do that is spring, summer or fall. Ice dams are caused by hot spots at the edge of roofs that are not properly ventilated and insulated. If you have one of those houses built in the clueless 1940's or by your buddies and a few dozen cases of beer then you might be worried. There are many ways to fix the problem in good weather by insulating along the perimeter, adding continuous soffit vents and making sure a clear air path makes it from the soffit up to the attic. The idea is to keep that roof edge COLD.


Sat, Feb 5, 2011 : 11:38 a.m.

Apologies: Mr. Paul, that is.


Sat, Feb 5, 2011 : 11:36 a.m.

Good article, Paul. For those seeking some employment, or wishing to hire someone to rake their roof, what range of prices can be expected? Thank you.