Caring for your Roof in the Winter

Your roof protects you and your family from the harsh weather year round.  So this winter make sure you take care of it. Roofs tend to be particularly vulnerable in the winter time and their worst enemy is the dreaded ice dam. Ice dams are the buildup of water at the end of your roof, which trap melted snow and cause build ups. The weight of these dams and the possibility of leaking roofs and falling ice, are some of the most dangerous things that can happen to a roof in the wintertime.  Don’t worry though! Here at Koopman Lumber we have the knowledge and the tools to get you through another winter with your roof intact!

Which method is best for my roof?

There are a number of ways to prevent and remove ice dams from a roof. The most common methods are:

  • Chipping

  • Roof rakes

  • Heat tape/cables

  • Chemicals

So which method is best? Well let’s take a closer look at each one and determine to pros and cons to each method.


Do-not-do-this-everThis method is about as straight forward as it gets. Use an instrument to chip the ice away. Many people will use shovels, axes, and ice picks to clear the ice away. While this can be done in a short amount of time, the drawbacks are obvious and not worth the risk. Using tools on a ladder or a roof can hinder your ability to balance and can encourage falls. Assuming you don’t fall however, you will clear away a good portion of your roof along with the ice. Using axes and shovel can break your shingle off, and ice picks will poke holes in your roof encouraging leaks. We cannot recommend that anyone use this method unless faced with no other option.

Roof Rakes

Roof rake snow removalThe old staple of wintertime rooftop management. Using a roof rake will allow you to clear your roof from the ground, which is by far the safest way to do it. This method is more preventative than a removal method, but it great at doing just that. After a snow storm you will want to get outside as soon as you can and break out the roof rake. A roof rake is like having a snow shovel on a really really long pole. Right after a storm hits, use the shovel to clear away the first 3-4 feet of snow from your roof. This will prevent melting snow from getting caught at the ends and allow water to safely roll off. This method is highly recommended as a preventative method if you do not plan on using heating cables.

Heating Tape/Cables

Heat tapeHeating cable is a great way to keep the end of your roof free of ice. Using heating cable is extremely simple, and setup is a breeze. You will want to set up the heating cable in late fall/early winter, before the first big storms come around. Using the hooks provided, zig-zag your cable in a “V” pattern along the first 3-4 feet of your roof, across the entire roof. Lay an additional line of cable through the gutters, even down into the drains if you feel it’s needed. any valleys on the roof should additionally have a line of cable run through it. After setup, simply make sure to turn your cable on during a storm to prevent snow from building up at the end! This method is recommended as the simplest way of preventing ice dams, with the only downside being that you will have to climb up to the roof to setup/teardown the product.

 Ice Melts

Ice melt nylon Stocking Some people will tell you to pour small amounts of ice melt directly on your roof, but we don’t recommend this! Luckily, we can suggest a way to use both use ice melt and minimize damage to your home!

Simply take a few pairs of nylon stocking, and cut the legs off.  (Paint strainer bags also work well.)  Fill each leg with about a pound of pelletized de-icer, and tie off the top. Since calcium chloride can cause some corrosion to aluminum components, magnesium chloride is a preferred choice if it’s available.  You should also tie the stocking off in 6 inch segments to prevent the ice melt from running down the stocking.  If calcium chloride is your only option, then just do your best to limit exposure to aluminum components of your roof.

Place these stocking on your roof, about one to two feet apart, running perpendicular to the side of your roof. Leave them in place until they run out of ice melt or the winter is over. This approach works well because the stocking provide a slow, controlled release of chemicals when needed.  If the area of the roof is out of reach, you can tie a string to the end of the tube, and toss it into place.  Having the string is also helpful in removing the stocking when the pellets are exhausted.  When melting snow comes into contact with the stocking, it will seep in and encourage the flow of ice melt.  This will clear away any snow or ice that has built up. It’s an easy, inexpensive way to keep your roof clear of ice dams!

So which one do I use?

We at Koopman recommend  any of the later three methods for your roof. While the first is effective, it’s simply not safe for you or your house. At Koopman Lumber we encourage you to be responsible this winter when it comes to managing your roof. Check us out online at or come down to any one of our lumber and hardware locations and ask our highly trained staff about keeping your roof protected this winter!

Of course, use any advice online at your own risk.  We can’t possibly know your situation with the age of your roof and materials used.  But this last method is what has been the easiest and most effective in our collective experience.