Prepare for Snow :: Victorian House in the SnowI know you’re all toasty with the warm thoughts of the approaching holidays, but as I was saying- it was cold here in Baltimorethat got me thinking about Winter. Thinking about Winter got me thinking about ice. And thinking about ice, well, that got me thinking about snow.

I’ll admit for a guy who lived in the mountains of Colorado for a few years, and LOVED snow … the big fluffy powdery kind, now – not so much.  Fortunately for me, snowfall, or lack thereof, has been on the mild side here these last few years. And yep, just as surely as I finished typing that line out it started flurrying … the big flakes (not really).

Am I prepared? Sure, I’m stocked up on Ice Melt (and if I had more time, maybe I’d invest it in trying to make my own). And yes, as sure as you have your snow blower tuned up, I’m working on my own (*pointing a knowing left index finger at right bicep  … flexed*). Other than that, well, I don’t know.

Maybe I could pick up some of those orange and reflective drive-into … able poles and use them to mark my driveway? Maybe – but what about the house?

Ice Dams be Damned! Fixing Ice Dams at the Source

Winter, and snow for that matter, also means … and especially if you live in an old house like me – ice dams.

the anatomy of an ice dam

image via The HTRC

Ice dams as I understand them are formed because warmed air makes its way up through the roof’s under-surface. There it contacts resting and cold snow. Which then melts. With the help of the roof’s slope, and, well, gravity – this melted water makes its way down to the portion of the roof, usually to an un-heated eave overhang. It then freezes there … creating, yep, an ice dam. That ice damn (as I sometimes call them) in turn increases the likelihood that you (okay, I) will experience some sort of unwanted (of course) water/moisture entry and/or significant property damage.

I got hit good by a pretty substantial one a few years back. I actually lost a whole gutter section cuz of it. And yes, Sean – I know my attic could use some work.

ice dam my house from inside

Beyond taking corrective measures, insofar as beefing up insulation and doing some general air sealing as our friend Sean Lintow, Sr. would prescribe (Check his article – Ice Dams and Attic Condensation. While there, also take a look at the video at the bottom – “The Interconnected House” from Peter @EnergyCircle) … one way to mitigate the chance of developing an ice dam may be as simple as incorporating something like a roof rake – to help keep accumulated snow off the roof.

True Temper's Telescoping Roof Rake

Friends at True Temper sent not only this image, which features their telescoping roof rake, but they also present tips, via their YouTube channel, for efficient snow removal.


Managing Ice Damns

While helping to combat ice dams, getting wet and heavy snow off the roof just makes good common sense. The longer snow sits on a roof, greater the chances of water infiltration – pretty elementary.  Right?

While not True Temper’s telescoping model, check John Poole’s post in which he adapts a traditional screed (a four-foot magnesium concrete float with several extensions) for the purpose.

John Poole home made roof rake in action

John Poole in action via A Preservationist’s Technical Notebook

… and yeah, I am thinking John’s attic is a little better insulated than mine. While John’s experiment was a success, read his article, especially at the bottom where he provides a pretty comprehensive list of things you should know before you begin with roof raking.


That’s it from me. Happy Thanksgiving! Travel safe and stay warm and dry. ~jb