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Snow: How Much Is Too Much On Your Roof?

By now, most of the United States has seen some snow, and with three months to go until spring, you’ll probably see more. This is welcome news for skiers and boarders, but a dangerous scenario for your roof. Not only can snow on your roof lead to ice dams and leaks, but the pressure of heavy snow can cause your roof to collapse. So, grab your Uggs, and take a quick lap around your house to see how much snow has accumulated on your roof and whether it needs to be cleared.

When you look at the snow on your roof, think in pounds, not inches. It’s the weight that’s a problem, not the amount of snow. Determine what kind of snow your area gets, because wet snow is heavier than dry snow. For example, 6 inches of wet snow is equal to the weight of 38 inches of dry snow.

Next consider the “snow load” of your roof. Structures constructed with building permits are designed for 40 lbs/sq ft minimum roof snow load. Because residential roofs are required by building code to withstand the heaviest snow for your area, if you have a newer home and the snowfall is average or light, your roof should hold up. However, if you have an older home or a roof with a flatter pitch (less than 3/12 pitch) you should be more aware of the amount of snow on your roof and be prepared to take action.

There are a few signs that your home is struggling under the weight of heavy snow.

First, check your interior doorframes. If your door sticks in the frame, that’s a sign that there’s enough weight on the roof to distort the doorframe. Also, if you have sprinkler heads, make sure they’re not pushed down below ceiling tiles. This is a sign of excess pressure on the roof from snow.

Unless you live in a one-story house, do-it-yourself options are dangerous. Call a roofing professional if you believe the snow is affecting your home’s structure.

If you’re certain that your one-story roof will be safe for you to clear, purchase a long-handled snow rake for about $45 at your local hardware store. Look for a model with a telescope handle and built-in rollers, because they will keep the blades safely above the shingles. Use a ladder to reach your roof, and clear the edge section by section. Anticipate where snow and ice will fall to avoid pulling the heavy snow towards you.

Start with the easy to reach snow near the edge of the roof. Remember, the goal isn’t to remove all the snow and ice, just to relieve some of the weight! Always have someone on ground level to spot you when you’re working on the roof and use caution when climbing a ladder.

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