Preventing Roof Damage from Snow Pack

Jan 7, 2015 Homeowner Tips

Winter snowpack can be a huge problem–in terms of day to day commuting as well as impact to your home. Heavy snow and ice that accumulates on the roof can even cause serious damage to the roof structure. Protecting your roof from snow and ice comes down to knowing how much weight your roof can support, how much snow and ice weighs, and when to remove snow to prevent damage to the roof. The roof, well constructed, is one of the most resilient structural components of the house, but it has limits to how much weight it can support. Here are a few helpful tips to protect your roof from damage from excessive ice and snow.

Estimate Weight Limits

Most residential roofs without any structural or support damage or decay, can support 20 pounds per square foot of snow before becoming stressed. This resistance varies by home and region. Some regions prone to very heavy yearly snowfall may have homes constructed with roofs to withstand heavier amounts of snow. The weight of the snow on your roof is measured in pounds per square foot. Where all sides of a square equal 1 foot, pounds per square foot refers to the amount of weight in that square.

Know How Much Snow Weighs

After understanding the weight support limits of your roof, you should understand how much the snow on your roof weighs. This comes down to a distinction between fresh snow and packed snow. 1 foot of fresh snow is equivalent to 1 inch of water, or around 5 pounds per square foot of roof space. This can be compounded when you factor in the weight of existing packed snow on the roof.

Just 3-5 inches of packed snow is equivalent to 1 inch of water, reaching that 5 pounds per square foot of weight with much less snow. Anything above 2 feet could begin to stress your roof. This is especially important to understand when fresh snow is calculated into the cumulative weight. Even just 2 feet of packed snow and 2 feet of fresh snow could total some 60 pounds per square foot, potentially exceeding the load capacity of many roofs.

Remove Excess Snow and Ice

To prevent roof damage from snow and ice accumulation, it is important to remove it when possible. If the snow exceeds a couple feet, either packed, fresh, or both, you should remove it. This can be done using a long, adjustable snow rake with a long extension arm. This will enable you to remove the snow from the safety of the ground. You can also call a snow removal contractor to remove the snow. If you remove the snow and ice yourself, take precautions that falling snow doesn’t damage property or injure people. Stand a safe distance from the roof when removing the snow and further remove the snow that has fallen from the roof away from the house–ventilation, downspouts, windows, and exits especially. Taking the initiative to remove excess snow from the roof will protect it from damage throughout the winter.

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