Is Your Roof Ready for Some Snowfall?
As a winter storm drops snow onto the Great Lakes Region, schools are closing, roads are being plowed, homeowners are shoveling in droves, and we’re thinking about roofs. That’s why we’re RoofAdvisor: it’s just how we’re made.
Invariably when a heavy snow hits (or is expected to) we start getting one question from concerned homeowners: “can my roof handle it?” Every roof is different, so there’s no one size fits all approach. A few good rules of thumb to help you take care of your roof when Old Man Winter pays your home a powdery visit.
First of all, stay calm. Snow is a lot lighter than you might think and roofs are strong. While it is possible for roofs to collapse under the weight of snow, it’s far less common than you might think.
What’s on your roof likely falls into one of three categories: fluffy light snow, heavy wet snow, or ice. A cubic foot of fluffy, fresh snow (so 12” high of snow cover a 1’ x 1’ area) weighs around 8 lbs. The same amount of heavy wet snow? That’s around 20 lbs. A cubic foot of ice weighs in around a whopping 60 lbs. Thankfully, ice usually doesn’t make it to the point where it can be measured in cubic feet.
Let’s give a little context. The average roof can support about 20 lbs per square foot. So heavy, dense, wet snow? You can have confidence that your roof can comfortably hold about 1’ of it. It can support even more of the fluffy, fresh type. Solid ice is going to be a bit harder for it, up to about 4”, without any other snow cover.
Ice deserves a little bit of special attention: unlike snow, ice doesn’t just fall from the sky in large quantities. Even ice storms tend to just leave a thin layer. The real culprit for ice on the average roof is ice damming. This isn’t just a concern in winter storms.
Ice dams are caused by a ventilation problem. The goal of ventilation in a roofing system is to ensure an even flow of air the same temperature as outdoors across the underside of your roof. When we don’t have that and the air that is on the underside of the roof is warm, that causes the show touching the shingles to melt. That water runs down toward the eaves where it meets the cold outside air and refreezes. This makes a buildup of ice known as ice damming. Ice dams can channel water into your home instead of away from it. If you notice a lot of ice damming on your property, you’ll likely want to consult with an Advisor to prevent leaks.
With this current winter storm, keeping an eye on the amount of snow and ice on your roof is a great idea, and for most homes, the predicted amount of snow shouldn’t cause any issues. But if you notice any of the following, please evacuate the property and contact your local building or fire official: sagging roof, severe roof leak, cracked or split wood, cracks in walls, doors or windows that pop open or are difficult to open, or any creaking, cracking, or popping sounds.
If the amount of snow starts to get above the amount you believe your roof can handle, there are options. A great option is a roof rake (sold at most local home improvement stores). This is a tool that removes snow from the roof. You want to get a model with small wheels near the blade (to prevent shingle damage). We hope this goes without saying, but please only attempt to use a roof rake if you are healthy enough to do so. Another great option is to have a professional remove the snow.
Whatever you do: do not get onto a snowy or icy roof. The possibility of clearing snow from your roof is not worth your life or your health. The same goes for ladders which can get very slippery without any notice. In ice and snow, stay low (aka, on the ground)!
To sum up: with the amount of snow we’re expecting, your roof is likely more than capable of handling the load. RoofAdvisor is always happy to answer any questions you may have. Most importantly: don’t get on your roof!