Pros give tips on roof ice

A break in the cold weather has people heading to the lakeshore to check out the huge expanse of ice on Lake Michigan.
Becky Vargo
Feb 18, 2014


Some of those people instead might need to pay closer attention to the ice building up on their roofs, according to local roofers.

“This is the worst ice damming on roofs that I’ve seen in 22 years in the business,” said Kris Werner, owner of Werner & Sons Roofing in Grand Haven.

The snow and cold without any thaw has caused a buildup on some roofs that might spell trouble as it warms up this week. Some area residents have already had problems without the warm-up.

“The roof deck warms up and the snow on the shingles melts,” Werner said, adding that it is more typical on an older home that doesn’t have proper ventilation or insulation. “It runs down the roof under the snow and gets to the overhang, where it’s 10-15 degrees and it freezes.”

Werner said he’s seen ice buildups of a foot or more. Standing behind those dams of ice could be 4-5 inches of water. The standing water eventually seeps through the shingles and nail holes, and runs into the house.

“We’ve had dozens and dozens of people with leaks,” Werner said. He’s also talked to at least four homeowners with collapsed ceilings.

Werner’s company recently responded to a Grand Haven Township home when the owner reported dozens of leaks in her dining room ceiling.

Peggy Reinicke and her daughter, Casey Brown, raced around the house that Saturday morning placing every pan, bowl and cup in the room to catch the drips. Once the roofing company removed the snow and ice, it stopped immediately, Reinicke said.

Inside, her dining room ceiling and walls were bubbled and peeling from the water that entered the home. Reinicke said once they checked to make sure the roof wasn’t damaged, they would open up the walls inside the house to see what had to be fixed.

Brown pointed to a vent area where one level of roof hung over another.

“That’s where a big icicle formed,” she said. “Everything built up around that.”

Matt Kohnke, who has worked for Werner & Sons for 15 years, said they are so busy right now that they are only removing snow from the edges of roofs. Normally, they would shovel snow from the entire roof, but that takes hours, he said.

“And there’s too many people with leaks that need help right away,” he added.Kohnke said if people are not able to remove ice from their home’s entire roof, then they should create channels and keep those channels open with an even distribution of roof salt. This allows water to run out from behind the ice dams, rather than draining into the house.

“The worst thing that people do is they buy the ice melt pucks,” Kohnke said. “When you have this much ice, all they do is cause big holes for water to stand in. It’s better to make the channels first,” and then use the pucks, he said.

To read more of this story, see today’s print or e-edition of the Grand Haven Tribune.

What local roofers say a homeowner can do:

• Don’t go up on the roof
• Try to break channels in the ice every few feet, so water can drain
• Get close without damaging the roof
• Spread calcium chloride evenly across the opening




How can you do 2,3 and 4 without going up on the roof ?


ladders and roof rakes that have 12' long handles

Former Grandhavenite

"This is the worst ice damming on roofs that I’ve seen in 22 years in the business,”

Hey now I'd be upset too but I don't think that kind of language is called for.


And I thought this was a family friendly paper!


Cousin Eddie wants to know where he can buy some dam bait on the dam tour. Lol


In all seriousness though we did everything from shoveling to calcium chloride to nylon socks. What seemed to do the best was picking up bags of Urea Fertilizer, a 20' sturdy roof rake, three pound hammer, and round head long chisel.

Fortunately for me my snow drifts are so high that I could stand on the packed snow and the roof is about chest level. Then I start working on problem areas where the biggest icicles were formed and chiseled them down from bottom to top and working a channel with the hammer and chisel as far as I could reach and trying not to get all the way down to shingles so to not damage them.

I then tried putting nylon socks filled with calcium chloride I had left over from a previous attempt and it at least kept the channels open but isn't any more effective than just lining the trench with Urea.

This seems to have fixed the continuous leaking into my living room and I use the roof rake every time it snows even just a little. It's not easy work but sure beats progressing damage to my drywall. So far it continues to work and I haven't had to reapply Urea or Calcium Chloride as much as I though I would. It was advised not to use salt but I used some when nothing else was available but I doubt it was enough to cause shingle issues with all of this snow anyway.

I wouldn't have needed to do any of this had my heat cable not broken which is when the problem started. That heat cable was an excellent investment the past several years so I plan to install a new one this summer and hopefully in a way that the icicles don't form around and rip it off the roof. Any suggestions???

Good luck and hopefully spring will be here soon....just as soon as I shoot that pesky groundhog for seeing his shadow.


^^yes, get your roof fixed by a professional. Can't believe people think they can 'fix' a roof leak problem with heat coils!!!

Tri-cities realist

I wonder if coating the cable with Vaseline would prevent the water from adhering to the cable and forming ice. And if a small amount of ice built up, the weight of the icicle would break it off more easily, before pulling the cable off the roof. And you probably wouldn't need to coat the entire length, just the lowest portion, depending upon whether it lays horizontal or at a steeper angle. Remember, water finds the path of least resistance. Just a thought. I'm sure google could help you too.


Some of the suggestions here in comments are alarming. Personally, when people ask me what to do with an ice dam that has already formed, I always say contact a licensed and insured roofing company that comes with good references. Don't get up on the roof. Don't pull off icicles, this does nothing and will end up harming your roof.

To try to prevent an ice dam from forming, a roof rake is extendable upwards of 20 feet and cost between $40 and $60, on average.

To put a stop to ice dams permanently will require an inspection inside your home, specifically in the attic. Inadequate insulation and ventilation allows heat to escape from the living area, and it collects at the top of the attic, warming the outside of the roof.

Snow melts, runs down to the gutters where it is cold, and it freezes and builds up. Lastly, to give you the utmost assurance next winter, you can also purchase a heating product that is hidden under your gutters. It turns on and off automatically preventing the runoff from freezing again. Please stay safe, don't end up in the ER - or worse.

James Wright
Home Improvement Manager


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