Tips for ice and snow removal from homes

Saturday, February 13, 2010; B03

Some tips for residents dealing with the harmful effects of ice and snow on their homes:

Should I shovel my roof?

John Corley, vice president of Corley Roofing & Sheet Metal in Temple Hills, has been asked this question a lot in recent days. His typical answer? No.

"You can damage the roof by knocking a few holes in it," Corley said. "Then you'll have more problems than you had before."

In dire situations, where ice dams in gutters are forcing water to stream down interior walls, pull off your gutters or downspouts. "It's a last-ditch effort. If you have water pouring into the house all the way across the ceiling and walls, it's the only thing you can do."

What about a roof rake?

Roof rakes come in 16-foot lengths (some can be extended by five feet) and can be used to scrape the ice and snow. The process is demanding and can be dangerous. Experts say the key to removing snow from a roof is never to step on the roof. And be careful not to inadvertently puncture the roof.

Is there a right way to shovel?

Experts offer these tips: Stretch before and after shoveling. Dress in layers, and wear comfortable clothing. Wear a hat to prevent heat loss and proper boots with good tread. If you are out of shape or overweight, go at a slow pace to reduce the risk of heart attack. Shovel small loads. Bend your knees and keep your back as straight as possible so you are lifting with your legs. Take frequent breaks. Drink plenty of water while shoveling. Do not drink alcohol while you shovel.

What should I do about trees and shrubs covered in ice?

Trees that pose an immediate danger or obstruction to a home need the attention of pros, arborists say, but most of the cleanup can be left until later. Azaleas, boxwoods, yews and other shrubs buried or bent by snow should be left until after the thaw. "If you start beating things free of snow, you'll do more harm than good," said Kevin Carr of Bartlett Tree Experts. You can gently brush snow from accessible branches.

What about the deep snow around my house?

Be sure to clear snow away from your exterior doors, including garage doors, and clear any reachable exhaust vents, drains and downspouts. Brush snow off accessible windows, and sweep or shovel decks. If you can, clear snow away from downspout drains and dig a channel for water to run away from the house. If you can, dig out window wells.

For icy walks and driveways, shovel off as much snow as possible. Sunshine, even on cold days, will speed the melting process. Be cautious using ice-melting chemicals or salt, which can damage concrete and might be harmful to the environment. Sand provides good traction.

What about my vehicle?

Before driving, clear snow and ice from your vehicle, especially all windows and the roof -- snow blowing off the roof of your car can block your vision and that of drivers behind you. Remember to scrape ice and snow off headlights and taillights.

-- From staff reports

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