“Since we’ve no place to go, let it snow, let it snow, let it snow,” warbles the old chestnut of a song. As cozy and picturesque as that sounds, the reality is that snow equals work: there are layers of clothing to don, bird feeders to fill, shoveling to do, and cars to warm up before heading to work.
There’s another worry, too, as the snowfall accumulates: a buildup of the white stuff on your roof.
When snow accumulates, there’s a chance that the roof will begin to leak or cave in due to the weight it must bear. Luckily, building codes generally dictate that roofs must be built to withstand the worst snowfalls common in your area of the country. However, as the storms continue to dump their loads, it’s only natural to assess the weight piling up atop your home. Although it’s a problem your insurance policy usually covers, roof collapse is a hassle you want to avoid.
If the snow load your roof carries is greater than the weight it was designed to withstand, it is in danger of collapsing. The snow load is defined as the downward force on the roof by the accumulated snow and ice. Even if a snowfall isn’t large, drifts can lead to load problems in particular spots on the roof.
Knowing your roof’s limit is the first step. Disaster.org estimates that homes should be able to withstand 20 pounds of pressure per square foot. Your home should be able to cope with more fresh snow than packed snow, because fresh snow is lighter.
As snow lingers on your roof, it can absorb moisture and become denser. Generally, a roof should be able to handle up to four feet (1.2 meters) of fresh snow and two feet (.6 meter) of packed snow. Assess your roof’s load based on weather reports and a visual inspection.
Steeply pitched roofs are least susceptible to collapse because the accumulating snow slides off fairly easily. Flat roofs or those with only a slight slope bear close watching once the snow starts to collect. Also, keep an eye on the roofs of peaked porches or entryways.
In addition to eyeballing your roof, you should be alert to other signs that the snow load is getting heavy:
Removing snow from your roof can be dangerous; you may want to pay a professional to do it. It won’t necessarily be cheap since they use special ladders and wear proper weather gear to ensure their safety in stormy conditions, but they are generally more experienced and skilled than the average homeowner. Check with reliable roofing contractors for assistance; some landscaping firms also offer this service.
If, however, you prefer to remove the snow yourself, bear this tips in mind:
Before snow accumulation becomes an issue, explore the preventive measures you can take to ensure the buildup isn’t severe enough to produce a cave-in. You can have your roof wired with a heating system that goes on at the flick of a switch to melt snow, and there are gutter screens and covers to prevent build-up. A roofing contractor should be able to advise you about your options.
Remember, a snowy roof may look attractive in a holiday photo, but it won’t be as alluring if it caves in, hurting you or your family and causing expensive damage to your home.
Even when you take precautions, accidents can happen. Home insurance is one way to protect your family against financial losses from accidents. And, home insurance can start from as little as $10/month.