Guidelines For Clearing Snow From Your Roof

by Rachel Laurendeau on December 14, 2012

If you live in a part of the country that receives heavy snowfall, you may occasionally need to clear the snow off of your roof. Here are a few tips to follow.

When should snow removal be done?
Under normal snow conditions, you more than likely will not need to remove snow from the roof of your house. Roofs, in principle, are built to meet the demands placed on them by snow loads in particular regions. However, you may need to clear snow in seasons when there is abnormally high snow accumulation or if there is an extended period of freezing rain or sleet that causes ice to form and prevent draining. Also, if there are any signs of stress on your house such as doors jamming, cracking sounds, warping of ceilings, you will need to take immediate action.

The two main concerns are with snow accumulation on the roof:
1) Structural collapse – the weight of the accumulated snow, particularly when it becomes heavier with rain or sleet, can stress your roof and weaken the structure and you can potentially end up with structural damage or even with your roof collapsing.
2) Ice damming – essentially, when there is heat loss from your house through the roof, the heat can melt some of the snow which then leaks down the the roof and refreezes. As the water accumulates and freezes, it can cause ice damming where water will build up and seep into the roof of your home. As all of the snow melts, there can be enough water seepage to damage attic insulation, and the interior of your home in addition to potentially causing damage to eaves and roofing materials.

Clearing snow from a roof comes with the risks of slipping and falling and even of electrocution if using metal tools so be extremely cautious when tackling this home improvement. Stay off the roof if you can avoid it. Using an extendable snow rake is the easiest way to reach the roof from the ground. If you do rake the snow from your roof, try to do the entire roof as doing only certain sections can make your home even more susceptible to ice damming.

Of course, if you are uncomfortable clearing snow and ice from the roof of your home, or if you are unable to do it for any reason, contact your local roofing contractor or snow removal expert and have it done by an experienced, insured professional.

Resources:  DIY Life and CBS Boston (excellent video interviews with Tom Silva of “This Old House”)

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