September 25, 2023
As winter rolls in and snow starts to fall, the beautiful sight of a snow-covered landscape can quickly turn into a homeowner’s nightmare if too much snow accumulates on your roof. Accumulated snow can pose serious risks, from potential roof collapse to the formation of ice dams that can cause leaks. So, how do you safely and efficiently remove a snow load from your roof? In this step-by-step guide, we break down the process to help you get through this winter task with ease.
Step 1: Assess the Situation
The first and most important step is to assess whether it’s safe for you to undertake this task yourself. If the snow load is heavy or if your roof is steep, it may be better to call in professionals. In snowy conditions, the risk of slips and falls increases, making this potentially a dangerous DIY task.
How Much Snow is Too Much?
Generally, about a foot of fresh snow or 3–5 inches of packed snow equates to a weight of approximately 20 pounds per square foot. Roofs are designed to handle some extra weight, but it’s always better to be cautious.
Check for Ice Dams
Look out for ice dams—these are layers of ice that form at the edge of your roof. They can cause water to back up, leading to leaks.
Step 2: Gather Your Tools
What You’ll Need
Before you start, gather all the essential tools. This usually includes a roof rake, snow shovel, ladder, and protective gear such as gloves and safety goggles.
Choosing a Roof Rake
A roof rake is a long-handled rake designed to remove snow from roofs. It allows you to remove snow while standing on the ground, making the process safer.
Slips and falls are common risks when removing snow, especially on a roof. Always wear boots that provide good grip and use safety gear like harnesses if you’re going onto the roof.
Step 3: Prepare for Snow Removal
Clear the Perimeter
First, clear a path around the perimeter of your house. This makes it easier and safer to move around, especially if you’ll be using a ladder.
Position the Ladder
If you need to use a ladder, make sure it is on stable ground and, if possible, have someone hold it steady while you are on it.
Plan Your Attack
Plan how you’ll remove the snow. Always work from the edge of the roof toward the center to minimize the risk of the snow causing a roof avalanche.
Step 4: Start Removing Snow
Use the Roof Rake First
The safest way to remove snow from a roof is from the ground using a roof rake. Pull the snow down in the direction of the roof’s slope. Do not pull the snow across the roof as this can break the shingles.
Going on the Roof
If you have to go onto the roof, use a shovel with a plastic blade to avoid damaging the roof material. Work your way down from the peak of the roof.
Leave a Thin Layer
Do not try to scrape the roof clean; leave a thin layer of snow to protect the roof from potential damage.
Step 5: Address Ice Dams
Use Chemical De-Icers
For any ice dams you’ve identified, use a chemical de-icer to help break them apart. Calcium chloride is a commonly used de-icer.
Sometimes, ice dams may require physical removal. This can be very challenging and dangerous and is usually a job best left to professionals.
Step 6: Inspect and Monitor
Inspect the Roof
Routine roof inspection is an essential practice for every homeowner. Catching problems early can save you from more significant expenses and headaches down the line. Here’s a straightforward guide to help you inspect your roof efficiently and effectively.
Step 1: Prepare and Prioritize Safety
Before climbing onto your roof, make sure to take all necessary safety precautions. Use a sturdy ladder and wear non-slip shoes for better grip. If your roof is steep or if you are uncomfortable with heights, consider hiring professionals for the job.
Step 2: Start with the Shingles
Examine your shingles to check if any are missing, cracked, or curling. Damaged or missing shingles can be an entry point for water and need to be replaced as soon as possible. Take note of any areas that look uneven or worn out, as these can be signs of underlying damage.
Step 3: Inspect Flashings and Sealants
Turn your attention to the flashings around roof features like the chimney, vents, and skylights. Flashings help divert water from these areas, and damaged or missing flashings can lead to leaks. Also, check the sealants and caulking for any wear and tear.
Step 4: Check the Gutters and Downspouts
Clogged gutters can cause water to back up and damage your roof. Make sure your gutters and downspouts are clean and securely attached. While you’re at it, look for granules from your shingles in the gutter; excessive granules can be a sign that your shingles are nearing the end of their lifespan.
Step 5: Examine the Attic
Finally, head to your attic to check for any signs of water damage, like leaks or water stains on the ceiling and walls. Moisture in the attic can lead to mold and rot, so don’t ignore this crucial step. Performing regular roof inspections can help you catch potential issues before they escalate into costly repairs. If you notice any signs of damage, consult a professional
Monitor Throughout Winter
Roof snow removal isn’t a one-time job; you’ll likely need to monitor the situation throughout the winter season. Keep an eye on snow accumulation and ice dam formation,and repeat the removal process as needed. By following these steps, you can efficiently and safely remove snow from your roof, preventing potential damage and ensuring the longevity of your roof structure. Always remember, safety comes first. If in doubt, it’s better to call professionals to handle the job. Stay warm and safe this winter!