Fun and Games with Winnie

In Which We Investigate Safety Solutions for Icy Roofs

The HUGE ice storm in the Greater Toronto Area before Christmas 2

By: Fun and Games with Winnie |

The HUGE ice storm in the Greater Toronto Area before Christmas 2013 formed a sheet of ice on our arena roof. In some spots the ice was more than three inches thick. We had a few days with the temperature above zero a at the beginning of January which gave us a very clear view of the ice. At least two feet hung over the edge of the roof, threatening to crash to the ground taking out anything in its path. Chunks over three feet square piled up at the base of the arena. There was one 24 hour period when it was worth your life to walk in and out of the arena and doors. Thankfully no one on the farm (horse or human) was hit by the ice.

We’ve owned this farm for 13 years. I do recall poking at the ice extending precariously over the edge of the roof with a long pole and meeting with some success at controlling the avalanche. But none of the previous winters presented us with anything like this massive, heavy ice. As if snow and ice falling from above was not enough of a reason to find a safe solution, yet another problem surfaced: the huge chunks of broken ice on the ground were piled high at the base of the arena. The mound totally blocked the entrance until a passageway was dug out, one shovel full at a time. The large chunks of ice were also wedged against the 20-yard manure bin positioned outside the arena/barn door. The man in charge of the manure bin was concerned that when he removed the full bin the ice would slide onto the spot where the bin had been. Then, when he returned with the empty manure bin there wouldn’t be a place to put it. He and I talked about the potential problem. We decided he’d remove the full bin. I’d call the man who plows our driveways and have him get the ice/snow out of the area. When this was done, I’d call the bin man and he’d return with an empty bin.

Not surprisingly, the man plowing our driveways was unable to budge the stuff with his plow. Picking up each piece by hand was not possible. He called one of his other clients and borrowed a tractor with a front-end loader. (Our tractor doesn’t have a bucket in the front.) A few hours later the ice was removed, I called my bin man and the new empty bin arrived.

Early in January I was heading out of the barn and heard someone speak two words that I’d not heard put together quite that way before, “snow guards”. I stopped in my tracks and asked, “What?” Turns out there’s a product that can be placed on the roof and it will prevent large sheets of ice from cascading onto people, animals and the ground.

I went straight to the computer and dealt with the problem of figuring out what words to place in the Google Search. I started with “snow falling off roof”, tweaked it to include “metal roofs”, happened upon “snow deflectors for metal roofs” which quickly became “snow deflectors for metal roofs Canada”. In typical Google fashion there were 260,000 results in 0.47 seconds.

My research began. I found a blog where one man had tried at least six different ways to remove ice from a roof. He also explained the pros and cons in terms of human safety and financial outlay. If I didn’t have a major problem with our arena I would have chuckled as I read this man’s incredible stories. He mentioned roof rakes, shoveling snow off the roof, snow guards, pucks to toss on the roof that melt (or not) ice, using a blow torch…

I liked his description of “snow guards” and looked them up. Most of them appear to be 4” x 6”. They are applied on a clean roof using some sticky stuff.

At this point it was time to feed and water the horses, plus I had a repaired bridle to pick up at Fincham’s. Bill’s story: “I was leading Kye to the arena. His head was low. He spotted Bruno (a horse in a paddock to Kye’s right) and did a low rear. The bridle broke.”

At Fincham’s I asked about Snow Guards and found out that one of the BIG Thoroughbred racing stables had great success tossing hockey-puck sized discs onto the roofs. Within a few hours the pucks melted the snow around it and the roof slowly and politely lost its hazardous ice.

No one knew what these were called, so home again to the computer and another Google Search. I tried, “melts ice on roof” and found a product called Roof Melt. It appeared to be what I’d heard about in Fincham’s. At one website there were twenty reviews which ranged from “great melter” to “don’t waste your money!” I checked the major hardware chains in Canada on the computer and learned that all the stores I’m familiar with carried these pucks. I ventured forth to Bolton, Ontario and visited four of these stores. No one had any. One store employee said, “We don’t carry them.” Since I knew they did I took a close look at the speaker’s face. Hmmm…my intuition said, “This store used to have pucks, but way too many customers returned them.” At another store the employee admitted to having stocked them and showed me the empty shelf where the product used to be. This person did not suggest a time when the product will again fill the shelf.

Home again. I sent an email to several dozen friends asking for information and HELP with this ice problem. Within an hour twenty friends had replied. Several were in the same boat I’d been in a few days ago: completely surprised that anything resembling a snow guard existed. One friend knew exactly what I needed. She had snow guards placed over the human door into the arena. Their horse door doesn’t have a problem with falling snow. Another friend living WAY up north said her husband put the snow guards over their barn door and emphasized that this application is a “good weather project”. One friend said, “I heard about a woman who died after being hit by falling snow and ice. I read about another lady who parked her car and it was hit from above. The vehicle was a write-off.”

Three friends emailed contact information for contractors they endorsed. I contacted all three and met with one of them, Dion. He put in the gutters over our arena door. For some reason whenever it rained the water flowed over people and horses going through the doorway. Dion also placed gutters along the driveshed’s roof where we park cars. The waterfall at this site was particularly annoying because every time you got into or out of your vehicle you were drenched. Both gutters were put up a few years ago and they are still looking good and doing their job. Even before Dion arrived at the farm to give an estimate on snow guards I knew he was “the man” for me. Dion recommended long metal poles for our building’s problem. He contacted the steel source, came back with a price and I approved it. In a week or two Dion will have the materials. At that point he’ll wait for a safe day to install the snow guards. That’s when I’ll be taking photos for this blog and I’ll get additional facts/information about these life saving snow guards.