Is there too much snow on my roof?

December 1, 2014

Snow on the roof can be a delightful place for Santa to land or a horrifically cold surprise when your roof starts to leak. How can you tell when there’s too much snow on your roof? Here are some tips for figuring out if you can relax by the fire or need to have your roof shovelled immediately.

Is there too much snow on my roof?

Track the weather forecast

Just having snow on your roof is not actually a problem. Why? Because most houses are built to withstand the weather of the region in which they were built. However, it’s not how much snow that you need to worry about, but rather how heavy it is. That’s right, snow can have weight issues, too!

  • Wet snow is considerably heavier than the dry, angel-making fun type of snow.
  • Fifteen centimetres (6 in.) of wet snow is roughly the equivalent of having about one metre (39 in.) of dry powdery snow.

That's why it's good to always check the forecast and have your smartphone set to issue alerts for extreme weather conditions on their way: freezing rain, snow and extreme cold are all worth knowing about before they hit.

  • Is there more wet snow predicted? You might be heading toward a “too-much-snow-on-my-roof” problem.
  • Extreme cold can cause ice dams to build up on the edge of your roof.

Keep an eye on the doors

If you want a surefire way to evaluate your “snow-on-roof” problem, check the doors, windows, and closets on the floor closest to the roof to see if they’re suddenly sticking. Doors may also "mysteriously" swing open if the door frame is under stress, even if they were latched.

  • If they are, the weight of the snow on the roof may be compacting the structure of the house and causing it to "sag."
  • The sudden appearance of cracks around door and window frames, too, can suggest there is excess stress on the roof structure.

If you have an attic, suck up your fear of spiders and take a look up there after a large snowfall. If the support beams are warped, wet or creaking then your roof might be struggling.

Know the type of roof you have

If you’re living in an area where snow is a regular occurrence, building codes should ensure that you have the right kind of roof for the weather. However, if you have a flat or only slightly raked roof, it’s possible that your roof is not built to withstand a lot of snow pressure.

  • Other factors that may put your roof at risk for damage include poor design, substandard construction, extreme amounts of snow and deterioration from neglect.

If the snow hasn’t melted within a few days, consult a professional to do the removal. The professional can also do a proper inspection of your roof to determine if any damage has potentially occurred.

There’s snow on my roof – should I haul out the ladder?

The short answer? No. It’s winter. There‘s ice. It’s cold. Your fingers are numb. Do you really want to climb a ladder and navigate a pitched surface?

  • Unless you have a generous medical plan and a desire to live dangerously, always call an expert to shovel off your roof and ensure you ask some key questions, such as if they are insured or would be willing to provide references from previous clients.

Removing snow from your roof is not a fun, DIY money-saving experience in the slightest.

  • Even if you live in a bungalow and have a long-handled snow rake, you risk pulling a mound of wet, heavy snow onto your head; touching high-tension power lines, damaging the shingles and much more.
  • These long-handled snow rakes can only effectively clear a small section of the roof and not the whole surface. What's more, they're only really good at removing fresh snow, not packed and dense snow or ice.
  • Lastly, snow roof rakes don't work very well on flat or gently sloped roofs; roofs with a steeper pitch are easier to clear.

Whatever type of roof you have, steeply sloped or nearly flat, it's not worth risking your health or damage to your roof for the sake of clearing snow from it. A professional will have the equipment, training and insurance to do the job properly. The best thing you can do to protect your roof is to know the signs when your roof structure may be overburdened and call an expert when you believe there's a risk of damage.

The material on this website is provided for entertainment, informational and educational purposes only and should never act as a substitute to the advice of an applicable professional. Use of this website is subject to our terms of use and privacy policy.
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