Rooftop warrior takes up bat, broom against enemy icicles

SATURDAY'S HERO

March 27, 1993|By ROB KASPER

I did a brave deed the other morning. I toured my roof.

While I was up there I got that same nervous tension in my stomach I used to get when my high school physics teacher handed back corrected tests. In both cases, I wasn't expecting good news. All I wanted was a report that said I wasn't in big trouble.

I got it. At least from the roof. Despite all the snow, ice, rain and strong winds we have had recently, all my roof parts were still -- and still functioning.

Unlike roof tours of previous years, this time I saw no Grand Canyons, Great Divides or Great Lakes up there. One year I had enough water standing in a corner of my roof to raise goldfish.

But this year the roof was as flat, dry and undramatic as the western Kansas prairies. And that is the way I like my roofs, dull and dutiful.

Judging by the number of roofing trucks I have seen scooting around town lately, all rooftops have not been as quiet as mine. Lately it has been hard to run an errand without coming across a gang of roofers, ladders hanging from their trucks, smoke rising from their containers of tar, visions of big paychecks in their eyes as they speed to their next distressed homeowner.

Each time a roofing truck passes by, I thank the deities and my baseball bat.

The baseball bat is one of the tools I employed in the defense of my roof against the rages of the recent blizzard.

I used the bat, a wooden model that one of the kids got at an Orioles game, to clobber the icicles.

I battered the icicles for several reasons. First, icicles can be evil. These icicles formed because the gutter had filled up with ice. If the icicles got big enough, their weight could pull the gutter loose from the roof. That was not where I wanted my gutter.

I wanted my gutter hugging my roof, catching the melting snow.

Sometimes sunshine takes care of icicles. But these icicles were hanging at the back of the house, where the sun didn't shine.

Another reason I attacked the icicles was they were easy targets. They were hanging on a gutter that was within easy striking distance of a bedroom window. To get at them, all I had to do was lower the upper sash of the window. Then with my feet firmly planted on the bedroom floor, I stuck the bat out the window and took several swings at the icicles.

I fouled the first few icicles off. But then I got my rhythm and made good contact with several big ones. I sent one icicle soaring over a backyard fence.

Which gets me to another reason I socked it to the icicles: It felt so good. After being held captive by the storm, I wanted to strike back.

During the blizzard I also protected my roof by sweeping the snow off parts of it. Again I didn't go outside to do this. I opened a third-floor window that overlooked a lower roof and used a push broom to get the snow off the roof.

Why did I sweep my roof? First of all, I panicked. I recalled a previous blizzard when a foot of snow piled up on the roof. The house groaned. The roof leaked.

I have had a new roof put on since that blizzard. Nonetheless, whenever I hear a forecast for a big snow, I get worried. While other snow-phobics scurry to the grocery store, I carry my broom upstairs and prepare to sweep the roof.

Two bits of roof-sweeping advice:

Tip 1: sweep gently. Do not use any tool, such as a metal snow shovel, that can gouge the roof. A gouge can lead to a hole, which can lead to a leak, which can lead to a water stain on a ceiling.

Tip 2: make sure the area below the roof, known as the snow landing area, is clear of pedestrians before you send your roof-borne avalanche down. By the way, when the roof snow hits the ground, be sure to listen for the terrific-sounding thump.

So thanks to the baseball bat and the broom, my roof is in pretty good shape.

During my inspection, I did notice one small water stain had formed on a top-floor ceiling near a chimney. That doesn't worry me. I believe that old houses are like Congress. Some leaks are inevitable.

So sometime soon I'll plug that leak. I'll put on shoes and clothes that I am ready to throw away. I'll go to the hardware store and buy a small can of roofing cement, a black goopy substance that stops leaks but ruins clothes.

Using a trowel or a putty knife, I'll slather the roofing cement into any cracks I find at the base of the chimney. It won't be a pleasant job. But then again, not all household chores can be as thrilling as taking a few swings at the ol' icicles.

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