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Monday December 19, 2005 // By Sandy

My own private Mjolnir

We learned a new term this week: ice dam. It’s the mass of melted snow that re-freezes in your gutters, causing the next batch of melted water to slide underneath and drip onto your walls and back porch, creating massive patches of ice on the stairs and ground. To use it in a sentence: “When the UPS deliverman fell and broke his tailbone on the property’s homemade skating rink, the owners felt remorse for not clearing up that damn ice dam.”

The suggested method for clearing up an ice dam involves a) pantyhose and b) a large amount of an ice melting compound, like calcium chloride. Sarah finds this interminably amusing, and I can see her point. One doesn’t often get to combine the fields of hosiery and home repair. To the regret of cross-dressing carpenters everywhere.

Ice invasion

Just like all curious first-time homeowners, we only did our research after first trying to solve the problem on our own. In our eyes, the logic was pretty simple: ice exists -> must destroy ice. We’ve both been through physics, and we’re both familiar with the enemies of ice: boiling water, salt, and large blunt objects. With a very limited supply of the first, and a impatience that prevented use of the second, we applied method number three: the hammer.

Before we tackled the ice dam itself, we went up and down the stairs removing the half-inch-thick sheets of ice that covered each stair. This was not only incredibly effective, and good exericse for my right arm, but a great proxy for therapy. Each stair represented another enemy, which I then got to shatter into bits. (It’s not that I despise so many people; I just hate ice.) Knocking off the foot-long icicles was especially fun, until some of the falling bits hit and destroyed our motion-sensitive floodlights. That may have been a bit of last-gasp revenge from the ice gods for all of my heartless destruction.

It was onto to the roof. I hadn’t been up there since our inspection sixteen months earlier, and I had forgotten how beautiful it was up there. I might have lain down and taken it all in, but for the freezing weather and single-minded determination DESTROY THE ICE. With well over a hundred feet of gutter lining our roof, and just a short while before my toes fell off, I had to focus my energy. The most pressing need: clear the drainpipe. It took a half-hour of wailing away at the ice with my hammer before the hole became completely clear. I imagined myself to be Thor, who probably spends his days off as a sort of local handyman, destroying old Norse ladies’ icicles and ice dams with his hammer.

Afterwards, as I hobbled inside and ran my toes under boiling water, Sarah finally did some research. This is where she learned about the pantyhose method, and while it was too late to go back up and try it, we promised to give it a go next time. She also read a list of tips on how to clear up the dams if the pantyhose. High on the list: DON’T USE A HAMMER! Apparently it can ruin your gutters and cause more damage than the ice will the first place.

Oops. Should I have read the instructions first? Nah. Like always, I chose to follow the advice that my grandfather gave me when I was a kid, the advice that’s guided me through many tough life situations: “If all else fails, read the instructions.”

Posted by DCE // Jan 7, 14:27
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