Snow and ice buildup on your roof can spell disaster, and unless you know how to solve the problem correctly – and take extra precautions – you could wind up injuring yourself and damaging your roof. Here are a few quick tips if you find your roof is overloaded with snow:
- First, assess the risk. Yes, too much snow can cause a roof to collapse, but it takes a fairly large amount of snow to make most roofs give way. Roofs are designed to carry significant loads, so before heading up there with a ladder, make sure your roof is actually in need of your help. Several inches of snow typically won’t cause danger to a roof that’s in good shape; two feet of snow, on the other hand, is a cause for concern. Generally, the roofs most at risk are flat roofs and those with very gentle slopes that can’t shed snow as easily when the sun hits. Roofs subjected to high winds also have an increased risk of collapse.
- Watch out for leaks. Aside from collapsing, one of the primary risks of allowing snow to stay on your roof is that over time, the snow can melt and begin to seep into your home. Leaks are most likely to occur when ice dams form along the edge of your roof, preventing melting snow from draining properly. You can avoid ice dams by using the simple “pantyhose trick” described below.
- Use the pantyhose trick. Cut the legs off an old pair of pantyhose or tights and fill them with chloride ice melt. Then place the legs on your roof so they’re perpendicular to your gutter, running up the incline of your roof, with the end of the pantyhose extending over the gutter. As the chloride melts the ice, it opens a channel to allow snow melt to drain.
- Avoid using a ladder; instead, invest in a roof rake. These tools are designed specifically to remove snow from roofs without using a ladder so you can stay safely on the ground. Rake carefully to avoid damaging your roof. You don’t have to clear your roof down to the shingles; removing the top layers of snow will significantly reduce the load without scraping or tearing your shingles.
- Watch out for snow as it falls. Removing snow can result in you dislodging larger amounts of snow from higher up, which can cause a mini-avalanche. Make sure the area around you is clear so you can move quickly and easily if necessary.
- Clear out your downspouts at ground level. Melting snow can quickly freeze when it drains, causing ice to form at the bottom, which prevents additional drainage. Be sure to break away any clumps of ice so the downspout opening is kept clear.
Above all, be careful. Even a collapsed roof is nothing compared to a serious, life-altering injury. If the job looks too complicated, call a professional and hire someone to do the job for you. Just be sure they’re insured.