What to do about those icicles on your roof!

In Ottawa this winter with the freezing and thawing we’ve had, we’ve seen some pretty extraordinary icicles. One of my neighbours described looking out her bathroom window and feeling like she was in jail: the icicles extend all the way down her window! I see what she means. Take a look — they practically form a solid wall of ice!


We think of icicles as an iconic image of winter–they’re pretty. But they are a sign of inadequate insulation and they can cause considerable damage to your shingles, eavestroughs, roof, and even inside, if water gets into your house. 

An icicle forms when heat leaks through the roof, melting the snow which then freezes when it reaches the cold edge, or overhang, where the eavestroughs are.


The problem is that if left untended, when the rest of the snow on the roof melts, it will be blocked by those ice “dams” formed at the overhang. Water can pool and warp and damage eavestroughs and even back up and get inside the house.

So what can you do?

This winter, it’s not easy but the first step is to get the snow off. I have someone coming tomorrow to help me do that, and a neighbour has been  kind enough to loan me a roof rake. That’s a long handled shovel that looks kind of like a giant garden hoe but it’s used for pulling instead of pushing. Because the snow is so dense, my friend will also have to get on the roof and push off as much as he can with a regular snow shovel. This is tricky — not only is the roof icy, but you don’t want to damage the shingles so you have to be careful. There’s so much snow this year, we think this could be a multi-day job.

The important thing is to get those icicles down (without breaking any windows when they fall) and unplug the eavestroughs. If that’s not possible, I’ve found a nifty little product called RoofMelt. These are tablets made out of calcium chloride, designed to create trenches in the ice for water to escape through, without damaging the shingles or the eavestroughs. (Do NOT use sidewalk salt: it will.) 

The cover of the package shows you where and how to insert them. At roughly $ 21 plus HST  for a package of 60 from Canadian tire, that’s pretty inexpensive if they work.


If you do end up with ice damming and water damage in the spring, call your insurance company. Your policy probably covers you, although any claim will impact your premiums. A few too many, I’m told, and there’s even the prospect of becoming uninsurable. Better to nip the problem in the bud, don’t you think?

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