Protect Your Home And Roof From Snow And Ice Damage

Posted by Kylie Noell on January 15th, 2016 | View comments

In many parts of the country snow is falling and accumulating quickly. Snow and ice buildup can be extremely dangerous to your roof. If you don’t take steps to alleviate the weight on your roof system, it could suffer from serious damage. According to the Institute for Business and Home Safety (IBHS) most residential roofs—if they’re not damaged or decayed—can support 20 pounds of snow per square foot before becoming stressed.

IBHS warns homeowners that 10 to 12 inches of fresh snow is about 5 pounds per square foot of roof space, but 3 to 5 inches of packed snow or one inch of ice already adds up to 5 pounds per square foot. Also, 2 feet of old snow and 2 feet of new snow could weigh as much as 60 pounds per square foot of roof space—way beyond the capacity of a typical residential roof.

For more information about what you can do to protect your roof from damage this winter, we checked in with roofing pro Tom Bollnow, Senior Director of Technical Services at the National Roofing Contractors Association. According to Tom, homeowners should always be concerned and aware of snow and ice on the roof. Ice buildup can be caused by snowmelt triggered by heat from inside of your home. The snowmelt can drip down to the roof's edge and refreeze, creating an ice dam that blocks additional snowmelt from moving and leaving it no place to go but possibly under your roof.

“Early resolution of possible buildup can most often avoid serious damage,” says Tom. “One of the first steps a homeowner should take to prevent serious damage is clear out gutters, downspouts and pockets on the roof where debris could build up. You should also be aware that proper insulation and ventilation in your home’s attic will help lower heat loss through the roof system and lessen ice dam formation.”

Interior warning signs of excessive ice and snow on the roof include water leaks showing up at exterior wall lines and other interior overhead locations. Exterior warning signs include gutters with excess ice and snow, buildup on the roof particularly in the valleys, along elevation changes, at eaves and around roof penetrations like chimneys and skylights.

Tom also adds that caring for your roof is not a DIY project. Climbing on the roof is very dangerous and should only be done by an experienced individual who uses proper safety techniques. However, according to Tom, homeowners can possibly "rake" snow off the lower part of the roof from the ground and break off hanging icicles, being sure to use care to avoid falling snow and ice. While this method will help, it will not alleviate all of the stress on the roof so it’s best to hire a pro.

“You should call a roofing professional when there is evidence of ice and snow buildup,” says Tom. “Waiting for one more snowfall or an anticipated thaw may be too late.”

Find a local roofing pro in your area that will remove snow and ice buildup.