You and the Snow on Your Roof

"To Shovel or Not To Shovel"

Snowstorm after snowstorm, you watch the snow piling up on your roof, inch by inch, and foot by foot. You have icicles upon icicles hanging from the eaves. Should you get up on the roof and shovel it off? A very good question. You must first understand the potential dangers of having excessive snow and ice on your roof. There are two primary areas of concern.

The first is structurally related damage created by the excessive amounts of wet heavy snow. On older roofs there is an even greater danger of structural issues. Excessive snow weight can also cause structural damage such as cracked walls and weakened framing. Cracking of walls and unusual noises within the structure are also signs of a structurally stressed building. In this case, immediate snow removal is required. Obviously, lower sloped roofs are more susceptible to this kind of damage, than steeper roofs. Older homes are also more susceptible to this kind of damage, since they were built prior to today's more stringent building and engineering codes. Whenever you are in doubt, you should contact a professional engineer or home inspector to review the situation.

The second area of concern, is the ice on the eaves of the roof. Ice dams are often caused by the ice build up the gutters. Heat loss through the roof of the house melts the snow close to the roof and a dam is created. This water now freezes and thaws through the temperature changes of night and day. This thawing and freezing activity creates abnormal wear and tear on the shingles and can cause leaks into the home as water backs up underneath the shingles.

Both areas of concern, are excellent reasons for removing the snow from your roof. The decision to remove snow from the roof area should be done so with safety as the primary concern. This choice to venture up onto a snow and ice covered roof, should be made understanding this is a very dangerous situation and certain precautions taken. You should always ensure that someone else will be home while you are on the roof. This is in the event an accident does occur. When you are on steeper roofs of over a 6/12 pitch you should ensure your safety, by tying yourself to a large roof object capable of supporting your weight, such as a chimney. If you choose to hire an individual to do the work, be sure they are carrying the proper insurances. You may even choose to have them sign a waiver of release of liabilities in the even of an accident and prevent a potential lawsuit.

Wear the proper clothing to include rubber-soled boots. Rubber soled boots will provide the proper footing while on the roof. Utilize plastic shovels, over metal shovels as they have less of a tendency to rip and tear asphalt and fiberglass shingles. Always shovel using top to bottom strokes. The reverse will cause you to catch the edges of the brittle shingles and cause permanent damage. Never chip or forcefully lift ice from the roof, as this is yet another great way to cause permanent damage to the roof. Remember the purpose of shoveling the roof is to remove the excessive weight and expose the ice to a natural melting condition. Always ensure that the ladder you are using to access the roof is secured to the house to prevent a falling incident while accessing or exiting the roof. The ladder should also be free of ice and snow to prevent a slipping hazard. Use extreme caution when exiting the roof as your muscles will most likely be stressed and tired. These are just a few of the most common areas often overlooked when venturing up onto the roof.

Again, if you are unsure about when and how your roof should be cleaned, the best thing to do is hire a professional who is experienced in this line of work.