Homeowners can keep their exterior protected by taking steps to prevent ice damage during the winter.

From your home’s roof and gutters to the landscaping around your exterior, you’ll want to make sure you remove ice from your home to prevent leaks or other property damage.

By following these guidelines, you can prevent damage by removing hazards and planning ahead.

Remove Ice Around Pathways and Doorsteps

Make sure the surfaces around your home and yard have good traction: A rainy day can lead to slippery disasters when temperatures fall to freezing levels.

Luckily, there are a few options to prevent icy buildup on pathways and doorsteps to make things safer.

  • Treat the surface before the storm hits: You can spray chemical deicers on stoops and sidewalks before temperatures freeze.
  • Spread salt on your driveway and walkways before a winter storm to prevent ice from forming. Salt is available at most hardware stores.
  • If you’re looking for an eco-friendly recipe for a deicer, try pickle brine.
  • If you have pets and don’t want to use salt, create a safer walking surface with sand or kitty litter. You can spread either substance wherever you need traction.

Clear a Path on Your Deck

Homeowners with decks don’t necessarily need to clear it off if the deck will be unused during the colder winter months, as snow won’t hurt waterproofed wood or synthetic material. However, it’s a good idea to ensure you have a path from your back door to your yard in case of emergencies or for pets. If you have to travel your deck to reach the back yard, you should shovel a path from your door to the deck stairs.

But take extra care with your wood deck, even if it’s treated with a water-repellent finish. Don’t use metal shovels, for one: They will scratch and damage the surface. And make sure any deicing agents you use are safe for your type of deck, whether it’s wood or another material.

Pay Careful Attention to Your Roof and Gutters

One of the most important areas to remove ice and snow is from the top of the home.

When ice and snow build-up, there are a number of damages your home might sustain:

  • It can weigh down your gutters and pull them from the roof.
  • Any ice or snow melt can cause excessive dampness, damaging the integrity of the roof.
  • Ice dams can form, and they’re as bad as they sound. Warm attic temperatures can cause ice and snow on your roof to melt. The water then refreezes at your gutters and roof edges, causing icicles to form around your roof. If they break loose, they can cause injury to residents, damage to the home or water leaks to your home’s interior.

It’s important to make sure your attic is properly ventilated, so snow doesn’t melt at the top of your roof because of attic heat and then refreeze as it travels down to the cooler ends of the roof causing ice dams. If icicles are already forming, there are a few steps you should take to clear off the surface:

  1. Use a long broom, extension pole or roof rake to knock icicles off your gutters and roof edge (but remember not to stand directly under the icicles when you’re doing so). And make sure be very careful and go slowly so you don’t damage your roof edge or pull a gutter down along with the ice.
  2. Place nylon stockings filled with calcium chloride (you can get this at any local hardware store) inside your gutters and intersecting with the ice dams. The calcium chloride will melt anything frozen.
  3. You’ll want to scrape or brush off your roof as best you can with a shovel (or hire a contractor if you don’t have the experience). This keeps the snow from building up and stops the source of melting water.
  4. Find the source of heat in your attic, and if possible, remove or relocate it. Also, check to make sure that your attic is properly ventilated, which will ensure the space doesn’t get too warm, causing the snow and ice on your roof to melt and then refreeze.

Stay Safe While You’re Clearing Away Snow and Ice

Keeping your home free from ice and snow damage can prevent issues in the future. But exercise caution: Being out in the cold weather doing physical labor for a few hours is no small task. Always take the following safety precautions if you’re doing the job yourself:

  • Moving pounds of snow can be taxing on your heart and lungs, and cold weather can increase your heart rate and blood pressure. Let a heavy meal digest before you work. And don’t smoke before you tackle this outdoor task since this can tax your lung capacity.
  • Push the snow when you’re shoveling, as opposed to lifting a heavy shovelful and injuring your back.
  • Take extra caution when you’re knocking down icicles from your roof and gutters. If there are icicles near your gutters, that probably means there is ice inside of your gutters. Be careful not to drag the gutters down with any ice you’re removing as the ice inside the gutters is probably connected to the ice hanging from the gutters.
  • Be careful using any tools around windows, and avoid electrical lines.

And if you’re not sure if you can physically handle the job, ask for help or hire a contractor for the bigger jobs.

Solutions for Preventing Ice Damage

You can start taking precautions now, such as ensuring that your attic is properly ventilated and your gutters are clear. Knowing which areas to address can help homeowners avoid any damage that freezing precipitations and temperatures bring.

Looking for more winter proofing tips? Some exterior materials stand up better to cold winters: Read more about how steel siding is ideal for cold climates. Or learn how to properly insulate and protect your home by taking these winter-proofing steps.