The Ice Dam Cometh

From the desk of Jo-Ann Ryan, weary New Englander …

This winter has produced record amounts of snow, frequent storms and frigid temperatures that even we hardy New Englanders are finding unbearable. It has also created a phenomenon of which I was blissfully unaware… ice dams!

All About Ice Dams

Snow accumulates on your roof over time and partially melts when temperatures warm up and/or the sun is shining, or because all or part of your attic is warm due to inadequate roof insulation and ventilation, and heat leaks. The melted snow flows down the roof under the insulating layer of snow until it reaches below freezing temperature, typically at your home’s eaves and gutters. When the melted snow reaches the freezing air, ice forms, creating a dam. At night, the snow tends to refreeze trapping some water beneath the snow and forcing it back up under roof shingles. Beware: Icicles are the first sign of ice dams!

Under Pressure

 So what’s a snow-weary homeowner to do? It’s the topic of countless conversations among neighbors and Facebook friends. And that’s how I learned of roof rakes! Now, this tool, which was previously unknown to me, is really a preventive measure for ice dams but also can be tremendously useful for removing snow that accumulates on your roof. Too much heavy wet snow can cause roof collapses. The average weight of one square foot of compacted snow is 30 pounds. New roofs can support in excess of 40 pounds per square foot. Older homes vary.  So not surprisingly, roof rakes are in high demand in my Massachusetts community and currently cannot be found in any of our local hardware stores or Lowe’s and Home Depot.

Roof Rakes

What is a roof rake? It’s not a rake in the traditional sense – it has no teeth. Instead, it has a blade made of aluminum or plastic (often 24” wide and 7” tall) and a telescoping handle or one that has multi-sections that can be snapped together (16 – 22 feet in length). This tool allows you to remove snow from your roof while standing safely on the ground and not damaging your roof. The goal is to roof rake about six feet clear from the edge of your roof allowing snow melt to evaporate.

The Next New Thing

As a researcher, I can’t help but think of an opportunity here. This would be a perfect time for roof rake manufacturers to explore the path to purchase decision and usability issues through ethnographic research. May I be a respondent?