Snow shoveling 101: Best shovels, best techniques

OK, New England – go find that shovel in the back of the garage and get ready for a little Snow Shoveling 101. Did you think we’d get away with little to no snow this season? Some of the region’s biggest storms on record happen in February and March. shows that of the top 10 Boston snow accumulations, 7 occurred in these two months.

So buckle down, folks – Punxsutawney Phil did not see his shadow last week, so we may have a way to go until Spring. Today into tomorrow, most of central New England will get at least some snow accumulation, ranging from a dusting in the north to as much as a foot in Southern New England. And just in case you got a little rusty since last year, we have some tips, tools and techniques to get you back in shoveling shape. Even if you are a Jedi master, some of these expert tips should kick things up a notch.

First, the tools of the trade: Check out this brief clip on the 5 Best Snow Shovels from Consumer Reports.

For more thoughts on selecting the right tool, see Popular Mechanics: Which Snow Shovel Is the Best?

For technique, we point you to:

And last but not least, we love this guide from on Clearing Snow Safely and Efficiently – it’s got some great tips and this handy infographic summary – click for larger view.


Snowmageddon: Is your roof at risk of collapse?

After the unprecedented series of record-breaking snowstorms, we’re hearing some reports of roofs collapsing under the weight of the snow. One of our insurance partners, The Hanover, posted this persuasive graphic on their Twitter feed comparing the cost of a roof replacement vs a roof rake.


That’s pretty convincing, but how do you know if your home or business is at risk? The Insurance Institute for Business & Home Safety has a great infographic (below) along with an informative post on Four Steps to Identify and Address Roof Risks from Heavy Snow – it offers tips for how to identify and assess your risk and how to address problems safely. It’s well worth a read, particularly since forecasters say there may be more snow in our future this week!

This has got to end someday, right? When it does, keep this resource handy:
Responding to Flooding When Snow and Ice Melt


Ice Dams 101: How to handle winter roof hazards

Photo credit: Wikimedia

Photo credit: Wikimedia

We notice that a lot of searches for “ice dams” on our blog this year. While ice dams are a winter peril that we New Englanders have become all-too familiar with, some of our southern neighbors may be meeting them for the first time. We’ve updated information from a prior post to offer some key facts.

How do you know if you have ice dams?

Essentially, if you have large icicles hanging from your roof, you probably have an ice dam problem -see the photo above. The icicles are the symptom, not the underlying problem, which is generally one of insulation. The University of Minnesota Extension offers a solid explanation of what ice dams are and why they occur, as well as information about prevention. Don’t miss the excellent diagram that shows why they form.

If you have ice dams on your house, you need to address them with a two-fold strategy:

First, you need to get rid of the ice dams and minimize the immediate damage.
Your best bet is to hire an experienced professional to do this – it can be a risky task. Some folks want to go out and chop away at icicles, but it’s not a good idea to be climbing on snow- and ice-covered roofs or using ladders on slippery ground. Plus, using the wrong tools to remove snow or chunks of ice from your roof may cause further damage to your shingles or your gutters. Not to mention damage to you: flying ice chunks can be very heavy and sharp. Many people also use salts or other chemical concoctions to deal with ice dams, a less-than-ideal “fix” because chemicals can damage or discolor your roof and can leach into the ground, damaging plants and greenery. If you have a low roof, one of the most common ways that people deal with ice dams is by purchasing a specially-designed roof rake and removing snow from directly above the ice dam. Again, this can pose risks to both you and your roof.

Second, you need to diagnose the underlying problem and take steps to prevent ice dams from forming.
While ice dams can sometimes occur as a result of freezing rain, more often than not they are a symptom of an insulation problem which should be addressed because there are other problems besides ice dams that can occur, such as a build-up of moisture that could lead to rot, mildew or mold. Not to mention that with poor insulation, heating costs are almost literally going through the roof. While there are a number of products that can treat the symptoms and prevent ice dams, the best way to protect the value of your house would be to enlist the expertise of a weatherization, insulation, or energy conservation contractor to diagnose the and remedy the root problem. Builder and consultant Paul Frisette offers his thoughts on why ice dams form and how to prevent ice dams by treating the root cause, not just the symptoms.

Ice dams and homeowners and rental insurance
The Insurance Information Institute discusses what’s covered and what’s not in terms of water damage: “Standard homeowners and renters insurance provides coverage for burst pipes, wind driven rain and damage resulting from ice dams on your roof.” III also offers this helpful rule of thumb: “Generally speaking, water that comes from the top down, such as rainfall, is covered by a standard homeowners insurance policy, while water that comes from the bottom up, such as an overflowing river, is covered by a separate flood insurance policy.”

In a separate article on recent severe storms, III discusses winter water damage:

“Melting snow that seeps into a home from the ground up is considered flooding and would be covered by flood insurance, which is provided by FEMA’s National Flood Insurance Program and a few private insurers. Federal flood insurance is available to both homeowners and renters. Flood damage is not covered by standard homeowners or renters insurance policies.”

“Freezing conditions such as burst pipes or ice dams—a condition where water is unable to drain properly through the gutters and seeps into a house causing damage to ceilings and walls—is covered. There is generally a requirement, however, that the homeowner has taken steps to prevent these losses by keeping the house warm and maintaining pipes, drains and gutters.”

When in doubt about your coverage, call your agent – that’s what we’re here for!

Here’s more information from Wikipedia and from a few of our insurance partners:

Travelers: Tips to help remove an ice dam from your roof

Liberty Mutual: Ice Dams

Make the most of that snow: New England family activities for school vacation week


Are you still cleaning up after another crazy winter storm that brought substantial snow to many areas Of New England? You’ve put up with the shoveling and the driving part – now with school vacation week ahead of us, it’s time for the fun part. We’ve put together a variety of activities to help you get out there and enjoy the snow. And for all the non-snow bunnies in the crowd, we suggest some other kid-friendly activities too. Just be sure to brush up on some safe winter driving tips before you head out.

New England offers over 60 alpine skiing and snowboarding areas and resorts, dozens of cross-country skiing areas – plus a host of other fun winter activities. Discover New England is a good one-source stop for a variety of ideas in the New England states. Here’s a site for checking New England Ski Conditions at various resorts.

Yankee Magazine’s “best of” lists offer some great ideas:

Here are some other activities:

Time Capsule: the New England Blizzard of 1978

Today is the 36th anniversary of the Blizzard of 1978! Well, actually, three days can claim title to the anniversary because the blizzard lasted from the 5th to the 7th. It’s still the storm against which all other storms are measured. We’ve tracked down a few videos and links that offer a look back for the 40+ crowd or an interesting new view to those too young to remember.

The clips also offer quite the time capsule!

Here are some additional features:

Excellent Blizzard of ’78 photo gallery with pics from various places in Massachusetts, Connecticut, Rhode Island and New Hampshire – as well as a gallery of the famous 128 pile-ups and newspaper front pages of the time.

A special report

Personal memories of the blizzard

The meteorology behind the blizzard of 1978