Safeguard roofs against snow damage

Snow may delight young children itching for a day off from school. But for many homeowners, the sight of snow means their time will soon be spent clearing paths and plowing driveways rather than building snowmen and sledding with friends.

The sight of falling snow also may inspire some homeowners to think about the roofs of their homes. The Insurance Institute for Business & Home Safety warns that it is important to understand the risk of roof collapse due to the weight of snow on the roof. Roof structures that are in good condition can support roughly 20 pounds per square foot. IIBHS says this equates to around four feet of new snow before a roof will become stressed.

Total snowfall is not the only factor to consider. Homeowners also must check the type of snow that has fallen. According to House Logic, six inches of wet snow is equal to the weight of about 38 inches of dry snow. That means it may take much less sodden snow to weigh down a roof.

Roof condition and the shape of the roof bear consideration as well. Popular Mechanics says the ideal pitched roof is smooth and steep so that the snow slides off. Closely spaced rafters improve the strength of the roof. A flat or slightly pitched roof may accumulate snow more readily.

Homeowners are urged to inspect roof rafters to see if they are cracked from previous snowstorms or damaged from insects or rot. Snapping or popping sounds while snow is on the roof is not a good sign.

House Logic also says that homeowners can tell if the snow load on the roof is too much by paying attention to interior doors. If such doors begin to stick, that may be a signal that there’s enough weight on the center of the house to distort the door frames. Houses that had improper renovations or homes in which load-bearing walls were removed may be more susceptible to this problem.

Removing snow from a roof is not an easy job — and may be a task best left to professionals. The safest way to remove snow from the roof is to use a snow rake with an extension arm that enables users to push and pull off the snow while standing on the ground. One should not climb onto a snowy or icy roof to remove snow. Shovels, which can damage roof shingles, should never be used.

IIBHS says that hiring a professional roof contractor is one way to safely remove snow from the roof. Licensed and insured contractors will have the experience to get the job done correctly and safely. Homeowners can expect to pay between $250 and $500 for this job.

Roof snow removal is a priority for those who live in mountainous or extremely snowy areas. If unsafe amounts of snow are left on rooftops, leaks, damage and collapse may result.