Freeze these winter hazards in their tracks.

By Jenn Sinrich
December 28, 2020
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long icicles hanging from roof
Credit: Getty / Greca Redwood-Jones

Icicles—you know them well, especially during the winter months when they hang off the gutters or roof of your home. And while they might give your humble abode a festive, wintry feel, they are also a safety hazard that can put you and your family in harm's way. An icicle is created in the simplest of fashions—it is formed when water drips or falls onto an object and freezes. But icicles that form on the side of your home are often a result of melting snow; interior heat travels upward, liquifying snow that has accumulated on the rooftop, explains Becky DePodwin, a meteorologist and emergency preparedness specialist from AccuWeather. "The resulting melted water flows out to the eaves of the roof and refreezes when the outside temperature is below freezing," she says.

When icicles grow large—this happens when they have a long distance to fall—they become especially dangerous, especially when you add wind into the equation. For that reason, it's a good idea to take preventative measures and keep long icicles from forming on and around your home in the first place. Here are some expert-approved tips for doing so.

Remove the snow from your roof before it melts.

Since snow is the main cause of icicle formation, it's a smart idea to keep buildup to a minimum. Chris Remaley, a home improvement expert and founder of ToolsPatrol.com, recommends using a roof rake to remove exceeding snow from your roof. Don't feel safe climbing up there? Hire a professional to do the maintenance for you on a regular basis.

Regularly clean your gutters.

Clogged gutters can also lead to icicles. For that reason, Frank Leloia, the president of Custom Landscaping and Lawncare, recommends regular gutter cleaning as a way to ensure you are ready for the snow season. "After the autumn leaves have fallen, it is a great time to clear your gutters or hire a local gutter cleaning company for some annual maintenance," he adds.

Install electrical heating tape.

Some buildings use electrical heating tape along eaves where icicles could form, explains AccuWeather Forensic Meteorologist, Steve Wistar. "This product is run along the entire length of the eaves and generates enough heat to prevent the freezing of water that would otherwise turn into icicles," he says. This is a project best left up to an electrician who knows the ins and outs of wiring.

Add extra insulation to the area under your roof.

By adding extra insulation to the areas under your roof, you prevent heat from escaping. "Extra insulation can reduce the melting of snow on the roof from below," says Wistar. "Of course, this doesn't stop the melting of snow from above by sunlight." Icicles hanging from your roof may fall and cause injury to individuals standing below them, and they could also damage the structural integrity of your house, notes Remaley. These are the two biggest reasons to keep long icicles from forming on the sides of your home.

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