Steps To Prevent Roof Damage Caused By Snow, Ice

With winter storms coming almost continuously in some areas this season, heavy snow and ice strains your roof and puts you at risk of significant property damage.

The Insurance Institute for Business & Home Safety (IBHS) offers four steps to preventing costly roof damage as a result of long stretches of severe winter weather. It’s also important to inspect the roof of a garage, shed, porch, or any other structure that has had to carry the weight of this winter’s severe weather.

IBHS also encourages homeowners to stay tuned to local news reports and alerts from the National Weather Service for information about impending winter weather storms.

Steps To Reduce Your Roof Risks During Severe Winter Weather

1. Evaluate Your Risk

Melting snow tends to more quickly run off of steep sloped roofs with slopes greater than 3 in. of slope in 12 in. of horizontal distance, particularly the steeper ones that are typically found on houses in northern climates.

Ice and snow tend to more readily accumulate on low slope and flat roofs over porches, lanais or parts of a home that are next to a taller section of the house, especially during high winds.

2. Estimate How Much Weight Your Roof Can Support

Unless the roof structure is damaged or decayed, most residential roofs regardless of the location of the house should be able to support 20 pounds per square foot of snow before they become stressed.

In some areas of New England and in mountainous areas throughout the United States, snow loads used in home design may be considerably higher and the roofs may be able to resist a greater depth of snow.

3. Estimate How Much The Snow On Your Roof Weighs

Fresh snow: 10-12 inches of new snow is equal to one inch of water, or about 5 pounds per square foot of roof space, so you could have up to 4 feet of new snow before the roof will become stressed.

Packed snow: 3-5 inches of old snow is equal to one inch of water, or about 5 pounds per square foot of roof space, so anything more than 2 feet of old snow could be too much for your roof to handle.

Total accumulated weight: 2 feet of old snow and 2 feet of new snow could weigh as much as 60 pounds per square foot of roof space, which is beyond the typical snow load capacity of most roofs.

Ice: one inch of ice equals one foot of fresh snow.

4. Remove Snow From Roof If the loads you estimate based on the thickness of the various types of snow and ice exceed 20-25 per square foot, you should consider removing snow from your roof.

For safe removal that won’t endanger you or damage your roof, use a snow rake with a long extension arm that will allow you to remove the snow while standing on the ground, or hire a snow removal contractor.