How to get rid of too much snow on your roof

October 15, 2014

Although picturesque, too much snow on your home's roof can be cause for concern: if left untended, the excess weight puts further strain on the structure, which increases the risk of damage occurring. But before you try shovelling snow from your roof remember the dangers, including slippery surfaces, steep angles, proximity to power lines and adding your weight to an already overburdened structure. So how can you tell if there's too much snow on a roof? What should you do? Here's some helpful advice.

How to get rid of too much snow on your roof

Can your roof sustain the snow?

Modern building codes require that roofs be capable of supporting the heaviest snows expected within the region in which a home is built.

  • Poor design, substandard construction, deterioration from neglect or unusually high accumulations of snow can increase the risk that a catastrophe will occur.
  • Wet snow is far heavier than dry snow, so even a normal accumulation of snow can become hazardous when covered by rain or ice.

Older homes that were built prior to the existence of modern building codes may not meet the requirements to hold heavier loads of snow.

  • If you live in an older home and are concerned, a call to your local city hall will let you know exactly when your home was built and to what standards of construction it should adhere.

Signs snow is endangering your roof

There are signs – both to the eye and ear – to help you determine if your roof is overburdened and if you should consult a professional about shovelling snow from your roof. Those signs include:

Obvious visible depressions
Do a quick visual scan of your roof from the ground. Use a pair of binoculars if you have to step a good distance away from your roof to be able to see it.

  • If you see obvious visible depressions, that’s a sign the structural integrity has weakened.

Sticky doors
Check interior doors to see if they're working properly. Anything out of the ordinary includes:

  • Doors sticking shut and needing a mighty tug to open
  • Doors popping out of the frame or mysteriously opening on their own when "closed"
  • The sudden appearance of new cracks near the frames

Unusual sounds
Although any structure usually makes sounds when the weather is very cold, listen for unusual noises that seem out of the ordinary.

  • If you hear loud popping, snapping or creaking noises, a cave-in might potentially be imminent and you should leave the house immediately.

Be conscious of ice dams

While a roof collapse is within the realm of possibility – and you should act right away if you’re concerned it could happen – snow causes another far more common problem: ice dams.

What causes ice dams?
Ice dams occur during the thaw-and-freeze cycle of rooftop snow when, during the day, snow melts into water where it meets the roof shingles, runs down the roof under the snow, catches in your home’s eavestroughs and then freezes again when the temps dip at night.

  • Ice dams usually occur when your roof is inadequately insulated and ventilated.
  • A large accumulation of ice can quickly overtop the eaves, trapping melted water along the edge of your roofline. This water can then back up under your shingles and drip down inside your exterior walls and attic, leading to a host of serious and costly issues.
  • In addition, ice dams can be incredibly heavy and add stress to the eavestroughs and gutters due to their extra weight.

Reasons to hire a pro to clear your roof

Many home improvement centres sell telescopic snow roof rakes that allow homeowners to pull snow from their roof from the relative safety of terra firma. While this may seem practical, there are a few things to consider:

  • You can still get injured if ice or snow falls directly onto you.
  • There's the danger of coming into contact with electrical power lines, especially because these roof "rakes" have long metal handles.
  • These long 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 can't really be used on flat or gently sloped roofs; roofs with a steeper pitch are easier to clear.

If you don't want to risk life, limb and potential damage to your home, then your safest bet is to hire a qualified professional to clear snow and ice from your roof. Why?

  • It eliminates the hazards of you climbing up on the roof yourself, which could damage the shingles, leading to leaks and other potential problems that will possibly wind up costing you in repairs.
  • A company qualified to work on your roof should be also insured if anything untoward occurs. Before you hire any company to work on your roof, ask some key questions to ensure they have the proper experience and insurance.

Experienced companies use specialized equipment and professional know-how to clear your roof safely and effectively. Make sure the company you hire is licensed and insured – if they're not, there's a chance any potential property damage or injury will be yours to pay.

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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