How to Prevent Ice Damming With a Roof Rake

Is Roof Raking a Good Idea?

Sometimes snow on your roof can be a good thing. A light, even layer of snow is indicative of proper insulation and can safely remain on your rooftop throughout the long Wisconsin winter. Snow can also serve as a natural insulator, helping reduce the energy costs associated with heating your home during those cold winter months.

Some people may rake their roof to alleviate heavy snow loads, but this is usually not necessary in normal Wisconsin winter conditions. Depending on snow density, your slanted roof may be able to safely support up to 2-4 feet of snow accumulation.

The most common reason homeowners rake their roof is to prevent the creation (or reduce the impact) of ice dams.

What is an Ice Dam?

There are two basic causes of meltwater forming on a roof. Above freezing, exterior temperatures will melt rooftop snow from the outside in, while poorly insulated attics have a tendency to melt rooftop snow from the inside out. As exterior temperatures fluctuate between freezing and thawing, frozen meltwater may continue to accumulate near the base of a rooftop (roof temperatures near the base of the roof typically remain slightly lower than the temperatures experienced at the roof’s peak).

This gradual accumulation of ice eventually creates a damming effect, allowing meltwater runoff to pool up and run beneath shingles, flashing, and siding. These leaks can cause a host of different problems, including the following:

  • Mold
  • Waterlogged insulation
  • Lifted shingles
  • Peeling paint on ceiling and walls
  • Gutter damage
  • Warped roofing beams
  • Exterior siding separation

How Can I Tell If I Have an Ice Dam?

Aside from the water damage described above, there are a few telltale signs ice damming may be a problem on your roof. Patches of snow may be missing near the peak of the roof, but not by the eaves. Excessive icicle formation around gutters may be another sign of ice dams forming. If you see horizontal icy layers poking up through rooftop snow within a few feet of the gutters, this may also be an early indicator of ice damming.

A list of ice dam examples can be found in the LH Krueger & Son Common Problems Gallery.

Can I Prevent Ice Dams by Roof Raking?

The formation of ice dams can be safely alleviated from the ground by using a roof rake. A roof rake typically features a wide aluminum head attached to an extendable pole with a 14 to 22-foot reach. This length is normally sufficient to clear most rooftop snow from the ground level around your typical single-story home. Clearing snow from a second-story rooftop might prove to be a bit more hazardous endeavor that could require roof raking from a professional.

How Do I Properly Rake My Roof?

When raking your roof, it’s best to start by removing snow from the first foot or two of accumulation at the base of the rooftop. Be careful when removing snow from gutters and flashing, as rough handling of a roof rake may bend or warp the material, increasing the potential for future leaks.

Some roof rakes come equipped with small rubber rollers to keep your rake from scraping protective granules off of your asphalt shingles. These granules protect your shingles’ asphalt coating from UV radiation damage, so it’s best to rake carefully without too much downward force. It’s alright if a little snow remains behind while raking your roof.

There are a few other helpful tips you may need to consider as you continue working your way up the roof with a roof rake:

  • While it’s helpful to clear snow as far up the roof as you can, you won’t need to clear it all the way to the top. Remember, those ice dams will typically occur near the base of the rooftop, especially on overhangs or areas where icicles are forming.
  • Avoid raking over skylights. Water will usually melt off of these fairly easily, and a roof rake may scratch or damage your skylight.
  • The opposite holds true to chimney flashing and siding, both serving as key areas where you’ll want to clear out any snow or ice accumulation.
  • Exhaust vents are another area you will want to keep clear, ensuring proper home ventilation.
  • Clearing snow from clogged gutter liners will also help prevent the formation of ice dams along the base of your rooftop.

Roof Raking Tutorial

Our very own Zach Wolf demonstrates proper roof raking technique in this video tutorial. If you have any additional questions regarding roof raking, ice dam prevention, or repair work resulting from ice dams, feel free to contact us today!

Do you have a worn or leaking roof? Are you looking for advice or assistance with your next roof repair or replacement job? Contact L.H. Krueger and Son, Milwaukee’s home exterior repair experts.

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