When winter blankets your home in a pristine layer of snow, it can create a picturesque scene straight out of a holiday postcard. However, as beautiful as it may be, snow can pose a significant threat to your home, particularly when it accumulates on your roof. As a responsible homeowner in a snowy climate, understanding how to properly remove snow from your roof is essential to safeguarding your property and preventing costly damage. In this comprehensive guide, we’ll walk you through the best practices for safely removing snow from different types of roofs and offer invaluable tips to protect your home during the winter months.
The Weight of Snow: A Critical Concern
Before delving into the nitty-gritty of snow removal, it’s crucial to understand the weight of snow and how it can impact your roof’s structural integrity. The weight-bearing capacity of your roof largely depends on local building codes. Typically, roofs are designed to support anywhere from 20 to 35 pounds per square foot. Snow, on the other hand, can weigh between seven to 20 pounds per cubic foot. This means that a roof collapse due to snow accumulation is unlikely for homes built to modern code standards. However, older roof structures that do not meet current building code standards are at a higher risk of bowing or collapsing under the weight of accumulated snow. As a general rule of thumb, consider removing snow from your roof when it reaches a thickness of 12 inches or more.
Understanding Sloped Roofs
For most homes built to code, sloped roofs rarely require snow removal. The slope allows snow to slide off naturally, and these roofs can generally handle the weight of accumulated snow. That said, always keep an eye on the snow buildup, and if it reaches 12 inches or more, it’s wise to consider removal, even for sloped roofs.
Flat Roofs: A Different Challenge
Flat roofs present a different set of challenges during the winter months. Due to their low pitch, they’re more prone to snow and ice accumulation. In some cases, flat roofs can accumulate several feet of snow, adding thousands of pounds of weight to your home’s roof. Additionally, flat roofs are more susceptible to ice buildup, which can lead to roof damage. To prevent structural issues and costly repairs, it’s essential to monitor the snow accumulation on flat roofs closely. Remove snow proactively when it’s under 12 inches, and pay attention to weather forecasts. If you have 10 inches of snow with more expected, it’s a good time to start the removal process.
Signs of Snow Overload
To determine if the weight of snow on your roof is becoming a concern, watch out for these telltale signs:
- Sagging Ceiling: Look for sagging ceiling tiles or boards, as well as ceiling boards falling out of the ceiling grid.
- Audible Indicators: Pay attention to popping, cracking, and creaking noises coming from your roof.
- Visible Roof Deformation: Inspect for sagging roof members, including metal decking or plywood sheathing.
- Structural Changes: Be cautious if you notice bowing truss bottom chords or web members.
- Difficulty Operating Doors/Windows: If doors and/or windows can no longer be opened or closed smoothly, it’s a red flag.
- Cracks: Check for cracks in walls or masonry, which can be caused by excessive snow weight.
- Leakage: Any severe roof leaks are a clear sign of snow overload.
Snow Removal Statistics and Facts
Here are some essential statistics and facts related to snow removal from roofs:
- According to FEMA, dozens of people die each year from cardiac arrest while removing snow, highlighting the importance of safety precautions during snow removal.
- Roofing Contractor reports that ice dam-related damage costs homeowners thousands of dollars in repairs annually.
- HomeAdvisor states that the average cost of professional snow removal from a roof can range from $200 to $400, depending on various factors.
Dealing with Ice Dams
Ice dams are another winter woe that can wreak havoc on your roof. They occur when snow at the bottom melts and refreezes, blocking the drainage of melted snow from your roof. This leads to significant roof leaks. While ice dams are often caused by poor attic insulation and ventilation, removing the snow from your roof can help prevent further leaks and aid in the melting process. It’s important to note that addressing the root cause of ice dams is essential to prevent their recurrence.
Safely Removing Snow: Step-by-Step
Before you embark on snow removal, it’s crucial to be aware of the associated dangers:
- No Snow-Covered Roofs: Never attempt to get on a snow-covered roof, as it’s slippery and dangerous.
- Avoid Ladders in Snow: Ladders in snowy conditions are prone to slipping, and their rungs may become icy.
- Hypothermia and Frostbite: Protect yourself from cold-related risks by dressing in warm layers and taking frequent warm breaks indoors.
- Overhead Power Lines: Exercise caution around power lines, as roof rake extension poles are typically made of metal and pose a risk of electrocution. Consider using non-metal extension poles.
- Health and Fitness: Snow removal can be physically demanding. If you’re not in good health or have a history of cardiac issues, it’s best to avoid snow removal and seek professional help.
Tools You’ll Need
To safely remove snow from your roof, gather the following tools:
- Snow Rake or Roof Rake
- Extension Poles
- Snow Blower (optional)
- Roofmelt Pellets (optional)
Step 1: Create a Safe Path
If you have a snow blower, it’s advisable to create a path around your house to facilitate safe movement while removing snow.
Step 2: Assemble and Place Roof Rake
Assemble your roof rake and position it at the edge of the roof. Gently pull downward to remove snow from the roof. A pro tip is to leave about an inch of snow on the roof to avoid damaging your roof covering. Avoid using heat guns or flame devices, as they can harm your roof. Instead, consider using Roofmelt tablets made from calcium chloride, which can melt ice without causing roof damage.
When to Seek Professional Help
If you’re not confident in your ability to safely remove snow from your roof or if you have a particularly challenging situation, it’s best to call in the professionals. Never attempt to climb onto a snow-covered roof or use a ladder in snowy conditions. Professional snow removal companies are equipped with the right tools and safety equipment to protect themselves and your property. Prices generally range from $200 to $400, depending on factors such as roof height, pitch, and snow depth.
One highly-recommended service provider for snow removal is First Class Roofing. They have a proven track record of ensuring the safety and integrity of roofs during snow removal.
Additionally, if you experience any signs of roof leakage or structural issues, it’s crucial to enlist the help of a professional to prevent further damage to your home.
In conclusion, proper snow removal from your roof is a vital aspect of winter home maintenance. Understanding the weight of snow, the unique challenges of different roof types, and the signs of snow overload can help you protect your
home during the winter months. Remember to prioritize safety and consider seeking professional assistance when needed. By following these guidelines, you can ensure the longevity and integrity of your home’s roof, even in the harshest winter conditions.