3 Ways to Remove Snow from Your Roof without a Ladder

Don’t have a ladder after a huge blizzard just dumped a ton of snow on your roof? It’s fine; not every homeowner has one, or maybe you don’t feel safe scaling one in such cold, icy conditions. Whatever the case, there are plenty of options to safely remove snow from a roof, some of which are easier than climbing that old ladder in your garage.

While removing snow on your roof can be satisfying, bear in mind that you should approach it with a fair bit of caution. There are hazards to avoid that you should first be aware of. With that said, let’s discuss the best tools for the job, how to use them, and how to safely remove snow from a roof even without a ladder.

Using a Rope To Remove Snow From A Roof

A coil of rope being used to remove snow from a roof.

Did you know that you can remove snow from a roof with rope? While this method can be used in conjunction with a ladder, with a bit of skill you can do it without one. However, it’s worth noting that this process requires two people! The great thing about this method is that, when done properly, it can remove most of the snow from your roof in a single motion.

If you do not have a ladder, tie something heavy to one end of your rope. Toss the rope over the roof of your home (with taller homes, you should probably avoid even attempting this). Let your other participant grab the end you just threw and walk it back to the side of the house you’re standing on. If done right, you’ll have a length of rope that spans the length of a wide section of your roof that is dug into the snow. From there, simply tug at both ends of the rope in a sawing motion. Soon enough, the rope should dislodge the snow’s tenuous hold on the roof and it will all come crashing down at once! Be mindful of where you stand—you don’t want all of that snow falling on you!

Heating Cable

For the planners among us, sometimes all you need to defeat snow and ice is an exterior outlet. Your local hardware store (or Amazon) more than likely sells a “heating cable” that you can string across your roof during fairer weather. Once installed, it simply needs to be turned on to get working. This might just be the best way to remove snow from a roof.

The wire doesn’t get extremely hot—just warm enough to begin melting the snow and ice. If done before a storm, you’ll find no snow or ice accumulation on your roof. If done after, you’ll be treated to a mini-avalanche as the snow and ice lose their hold and come tumbling down all at once. If you’re an “after-the-fact” kind of person, then ensure there is nothing below (including people) that could get damaged by the snowfall.

Using a Roof Rake To Remove Snow

While it’s not particularly glamorous or clever, it gets the job done. A snow roof rake is just that—a rake featuring a rubber “squeegee” blade at its end with an incredibly long telescoping handle. Some rakes on the market are as long as 21 feet!

With rake in hand, plunge it into the upper area of a patch of snow you’d like to remove. Then, once you’ve hit solid roof, begin pulling the rake backward. You should see the snow begin to slide down well before the rake even hits your gutter. As with all of the previous snow removal strategies, ensure nothing is immediately below the snow’s point of impact. We love this method because, while more labor-intensive, it is a more deliberate way of removing snow.

Using De-Icer

Icicles hanging from a roof after snow has built up.

The last thing you want on your roof is rock salt. While it’s a great product for quickly melting snow and ice, it will do a number on your roof and your gutters due to its corrosive nature. Instead, find a non-corrosive “de-icing” product made up of calcium chloride.

Now, don’t just start throwing it or spraying it on your roof. Instead, many people suggest filling pantyhose with the material. From there, hang the pantyhose on your roof so they hang downward, following the natural grade. They should begin melting channels into the snow and ice accumulation, which will then allow drainage and, soon enough, clear the snow and ice from your roof entirely.

De-Icer is Great for Removing Roof Ice Dams

While we’re on the topic, the aforementioned de-icer solution is also a great way to rid your roof of “ice dams”. An ice dam is when ice has accumulated on your roof to the extent that, even as it melts, water cannot flow freely into your gutters. Because your gutters get “plugged” by ice, it simply allows the water to pool and eventually freeze again. Carving channels out of these dams using de-icer will take care of this problem without worrying about getting a face full of sharp ice.

Things to Avoid When Removing Snow From Roofing

It’s easy to take snow for granted. It might even be easier to take your roof for granted. However, both the accumulation of snow and a poorly thought-out plan for removing it can cause damage to your home, cause injury to you or a third party, or worse. Here’s a breakdown of things to remember to avoid when clearing snow from your roof this winter.

Metal Shovels

Have you ever seen a crew remove an old roof before they put on a new one? The instrument they use to remove shingles functions much in the same way as a metal shovel. Unless you want to replace shingles, skip the metal shovel.

Rusty metal shovels resting against a log cabin.

Loading Weak Areas

In general, you should avoid putting your weight on your roof whenever possible. It’s impossible to know of any weak points. With that said, don’t push the snow on your roof around and let it pile up in one place; it can be the straw that breaks the camel’s back!

Not Observing Where You Drop the Snow

As we’d cautioned earlier, snow is heavy even if it doesn’t feel like it. The snow that slides off your roof will weigh, at a minimum, 20 pounds and can be much heavier than that. Make sure you drop your snow in a safe place where nothing can get damaged and no one can get injured. 

Forgetting the Safety Gear

You do you. However, we’d recommend that, at a minimum, you wear a good pair of gloves and some warm boots when you’re working out in the cold. If you really want our opinion, then we’d also suggest goggles—ice and snow in your face can do a number to you.

Going it Alone

Anytime you’re doing housework that is even remotely dangerous you should have a spotter on-hand. At best, it’s someone to share a beer with when you’re done. At worst, there’s someone ready to call 911 if things go south.

Using Salt

We talked about this earlier. However, it’s worth stating again that rock salt has no business being on your roof. It’s highly effective at removing snow and ice but it’s also incredibly corrosive to the materials that you’d find on a roof. Rusted flashing or perforated gutters can bring water into your home and turn into a costly repair.

Wooden roof shingles damaged from snow and salt.

Your Roof Needs Some Extra Help in Winter

Your roof doesn’t really complain, does it? It just does its job. However, winter is a particularly hard time for it. Snow and ice are heavy, meaning they will test your roof’s weight limit. Beyond that, it’s also constantly exposed to moisture. Removing snow and ice as soon as it accumulates does three things; it keeps unneeded weight off your roof, it keeps it as dry as possible, and it gives you peace-of-mind come spring.

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