Updated Dec 8, 2022
Snowy rooftops in the winter are picturesque. However, a buildup of snow can stress the structure of your roof and cause damage. To avoid snow buildup, you’ll need to remove snow before it accumulates or freezes.
Roof snow removal can be dangerous. To help, we’ve outlined some strategies for safely removing snow from your roof.
Roofs can withstand many environmental factors but aren’t necessarily designed to tolerate heavy snow and ice accumulation. Clearing your roof of snow in winter is an important preventative measure that will prolong your roof’s functionality and protect your home’s interior from damaging elements.
While there are no firm rules about when you should clear your roof, if snow has accumulated more than 12 inches, removing it’s a good idea. If you wait, ice dams may form, which can result in damage to the interior of your home.
Preventing ice dams from forming on your roof is critical. Ice dams are formed when the snow melts and freezes into ice at the edge of your roofline, blocking your gutters and preventing the proper drainage of melting snow from your roof. If melting snow cannot drain, it may cause ice buildup in your gutters and downspouts or seep under the shingles and into your home.
Removing fresh snow from your roof is the best way to prevent roof leaks caused by ice dams. However, it can be a dangerous task. We’ve outlined some tips on the safe removal of snow below.
Using a ladder in cold conditions can be dangerous. A ladder leaned on snow or ice can be slippery, and ice can form on the rungs, making it difficult to climb up and down. If you must use a ladder because it’s impossible to remove snow from the ground with a roof rake, ensure you have a second person to hold the ladder in place.
Staying aware of the forecast is crucial. If your roof already has a layer of snow built up, it’s best to try and remove it if more snowfall is predicted. Whether it’s a snowstorm or only a few inches of snow, removing a small amount of snow is much easier than a foot of snow. You’ll also want to make sure you’re well-dressed for the weather. Being outside for a prolonged time can expose you to frostbite and hypothermia.
If you remove snow from your roof by yourself, you need the right tools. A roof rake is designed specifically for the job of snow removal. Snow removal tools can be purchased online or at most hardware stores. If you have a flat roof, you can shovel the snow from your roof fairly safely, but you’ll want to be careful not to damage the lining. If you have a pitched roof, using a snow rake allows you to stand on the ground rather than the roof, offering a much safer alternative.
Knowing your roof’s anatomy can help you determine the best way to clear it. In general, you want to start from the edge and work inward. If your roof has a gabled design, you’ll want to start at the ridge and work toward the eaves. Depending on the features of your roof, snow drifts may form in particular sections — you should prioritize clearing these areas. It’s also important to be conscientious of working around skylights, valleys, dormers, overhangs, or other architectural features that may require extra attention.
If you’re clearing your roof of snow, don’t try to make haste by using chemicals, heat, or sharp metal shovels and tools. Sharp tools may damage the underlayment of your roof. Heat and chemicals can cause icicles to fall or cause the snow load to melt quickly, leading to a dangerous situation. While these things may speed up the actual removal of snow, they’re more likely to cause roof damage.
Working in one small area at a time allows you to avoid the risk of structural damage or roof collapse. If you pile too much snow in one area of your roof, the snow’s weight can stress the structure. It’s better to work in one area and move to other sections once that’s clear.
Working with another person will not only make clearing snow quicker and more efficient, but it’s also a lot safer. Clearing snow from a roof is a dangerous task, and having someone available to look out for potential dangers or call 911 in an emergency is important.
When in doubt, it’s a good idea to call in professional help for snow removal. Snow removal specialists are equipped with the knowledge and tools to get the job done and save you the trouble and hazard of DIY snow removal.
Some landscaping companies and roofers often provide snow removal services. It’s a good idea to start looking for a contractor before winter and have a few options handy, as they can get busy once winter weather arrives. Make sure whoever you hire is licensed, bonded, and insured.
Homeowners insurance generally covers damage from natural disasters. However, reviewing your policy with an agent never hurts. If it turns out you need extra coverage, you’ll want to make sure you get it before it’s too late.
While it’s possible to safely remove snow from your roof on your own, it’s important to follow a few guidelines to do so. Clearing your own roof may save you some money, but hiring a professional is the safest way.
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