the edge off of winter
tips from Mike Frentz to take the edge off this nasty winter
economical with your ice melter purchases.
Most people know by now that calcium and potassium chloride melt
ice far better than regular rock salt. Mike has noted in previous
columns that while those chemicals cost marginally more than rock
salt, you don’t have to use as much of them.
and potassium chloride work best at keeping a surface, such as a
sidewalk, clean. You can spread either chemical over snow or ice
without shoveling first, and it will work fine. But if you’ve got
the will to pick up that shovel one more time and clear your driveway,
and then spread an ice
melter, you’ll find it will keep your concrete areas much cleaner,
with far less ice build-up.
Once an area is
cleaned off, just spread a little ice melter over it during the next
snowfall and then pretty much forget about shoveling (but this is
Michigan, so don’t pack that shovel away just yet).
another good reason to be economical with ice melters – they’re
getting hard to come by across the entire state. Mike says Frentz and
Sons received two orders this week, one on Tuesday and the second on
Wednesday, for a total of 240 bags, each weighing 50 pounds.
They sold out
each day in under 15 minutes.
“We might get
one more order in this week, and then more next week,” Mike said
late Thursday. “It just goes so quickly. People call and ask if
we’re getting some in, and I tell them yes, we just did, but if
you’re not here in 15 minutes it’ll be gone, and it is. What’s
interesting is that the customers seem to know when the orders are
coming in – that’s something we
don’t always know.”
don’t need to balance on a ladder to get ice melters onto an ice dam
Really now – would you tell your son or daughter it’s OK to go
climb a ladder to the roof of the house in this weather? Well, you
shouldn’t be up there, either. And here’s something else to
consider. Mike has ice dams on the house he’s lived in for 26 years.
He doesn’t have any leaks.
“If it’s not
leaking, leave it alone,” Mike says. “You only have a problem if
it’s leaking into your home, down a wall, or into the attic. If you
get up on a ladder you can hurt yourself, and if you start whacking at
it with an axe or an ice pick, you could put a hole in the roof and
create a problem where there wasn’t one.”
If you are
having a problem with leaks, Mike has two ideas for safely getting rid
of the ice dams.
1) Find a
nylon stocking. Where you find it is your business. Cut it at the
top and fill the leg with calcium or potassium chloride. Tie off the
open end with string.
Now tie a long
rope securely to either
end of the stocking. The rope has to be long enough to go over your
house –- up one side of the roof and down the other. You’ll also
need another person, just for a moment, to make this plan work.
Ask that person
to stand in the back yard while you’re in the front yard, or
vice-versa. You want that person standing on the side of the house
where the ice dam is. Your job is to throw the stocking over the
house. The other person’s job is to let you know whether you need
to pull the rope, or let out a little slack, so that the stocking
ultimately is resting directly on top of the ice dam.
correctly, tie it off and leave it there for a couple hours. It will
melt the ice directly beneath it, and you can use the same stocking
Not only does
this method work, but Mike points out an important fact: You don’t
have to clear your entire roof of ice to get rid of an ice dam. All
you have to do is create a channel for the water to flow off your
Remember those brown paper bags you used to carry your lunch in?
Fill one halfway to three-quarters with calcium or potassium
chloride, fold the top down and staple it shut.
to have to move quickly now, so read this through to the end and
then give it a try.
bottom of the bag just a little – don’t soak it. Now walk outside
(quickly), take aim, hold that bag the way you used to hold a water
balloon in high school, and lob it up onto the roof. Your target is
the area just above the ice dam.
If you do it
right, the bag will hit the target, break open, and you’ll have
succeeded in putting a high concentration of an ice melter directly
where it needs to be. You won’t be littering, either – the
next gust of wind will bring that bag down so you can retrieve it.
work with rock salt. Calcium and potassium chloride will not hurt
your roof; the runoff won’t kill vegetation. Rock salt might hurt
your roof, will kill vegetation, and only melts ice when the
temperature is above 32 degrees Fahrenheit. If it’s that warm the
ice will melt by itself.
gotta get up that ladder?
Finally, if you’re
just hell bent for leather to get up on a ladder, which Mike does not
recommend (“it’s just dangerous, that’s all there is to it”)
don’t use a sharp object like an ice pick or an axe to chip away at
an ice dam. It’s too easy to poke a hole in your roof and while most
insurance companies cover ice dam damage, they probably won’t cover
the damage you do yourself.
going to get up there, use a heavy hammer. They’re properly called
machinists hammers,” Mike says. These look like hand-held sledge
hammers and weigh about 2 or 3 pounds. The best way to use the hammer
is to go over the ice dam once, hitting it at even intervals so it
will weaken and crack, and then go over it again to actually break off
tip on snow blowers:
If your snow blower isn’t working, there are three likely
causes. The first two are common, and if your snow blower doesn’t
start up after trying them, most people give up and take it into the
shop. Instead, go a little further and check out option “c” on
this list. It will cost you about $2 to try; if it works, you’ll
save yourself from a pretty substantial tune-up bill.
The first reason a snow blower doesn’t work could be because
you don’t have the correct oil-to-gas ratio in the tank. Check your
instructions. Too much or two little of either, and the engine either
won’t run or will eventually burn itself out.
You left gas in the snow blower over the summer. If you do
that, gasoline degrades into a varnish-like chemical that gums up the
fuel line and then the engine, so you’re talking an expensive
overhaul. At the end of this winter, ask for a chemical called STA-BILE,
or the equivalent recommended in your instruction manual. It’s an
additive that keeps gasoline from degrading. The best thing to do is
run the snow blower until it’s out of gas, and then store it for the summer.
* Replace the spark plug. They wear out quickly in snow blowers
and that might be all that’s needed. Mike says different snow
blowers use different spark plugs, so bring yours along to insure that
you get the right kind.