How to Safely Remove Snow from Your Roof – The Do’s and Don’ts of Snow Removal

Ahhh winter…picturesque views of snow-covered yards and rooftops, perhaps twinkling with the shine of holiday lights (especially this time of year). But the snow of movies and greeting cards pales to the reality of the often-dangerous weight snow can place on your roof, which left unattended can cause serious damage.

How much snow is too much snow on your roof? 

Aside from the new fallen beauty of this fluffy precipitation, the truth is, snow can often signal trouble ahead.  Especially when it comes to protecting your home and roof from getting damaged. 

If the roof on your house has a steep pitch, then it’s less likely to suffer from damage, though it certainly happens. Flat roofs and shallow pitches have a greater risk for structural damage and roof collapse. This is due to the snow remaining in the same spot for an extended amount of time and being unable to slide, or melt, off easily. The problem with flat or low pitch roofs is that even when the snow starts to melt, the water does not always completely drain away before it refreezes which means it gains in weight, not to mention the risk of ice dams. 

Most roofs are built to withstand normal amounts of snowfall, usually between two and three feet in northern areas. However, the age and condition of your roof also factors in on how well it will stand up. It is generally recommended to allow no more than 6 inches or so to remain on your roof. 

To get an idea of how much weight is on the roof – go around and open the interior doors of your home. Do they stick, are they hard to open? The pressure on the home from the weight on the roof may be the culprit. 

Most home roofs can support 20 pounds per square foot of snow before they become stressed, according to the Insurance Institute for Business and Home Safety (IIBHS). But how much weight your roof can handle depends on when the roof was built and what materials were used. Numerous other factors can increase the likelihood for roof collapse or damage. These include a roof’s slope, shape, construction, exposure to wind and maintenance. The type of snow can also impact risk, since wet, heavy snow can weigh as much as 21 pounds per square foot, compared to fresh, fluffy snow, which can weigh as little as three pounds per square foot. 

How do you tell the difference between heavy wet snow and dry fluffy snow? 

The easiest way is to go shovel a few minutes. Wet snow is heavier than the dry fluffy snow and wet snow is much heavier than dry and is harder to shovel, and your body will tire much faster. Dry snow is much easier to shovel, is loose and light, and has an almost ‘playful’ effect to it. 

Air temperatures hovering near the freezing point produce large, partially melted snowflakes – wet snow. This type of snow is very dense and good for making snowmen.  However, it is very heavy and difficult to shovel. Dry snow, on the other hand, is more powdery and does not pack as well.  It falls as numerous small flakes when the air temperature is below 28°F.

The DO’s of roof snow removal

  • Start by removing drifted snow at parapets, elevation changes and around equipment.
  • Then, work from the edge of your roof and work your way further onto the roof gradually
  • Use plastic roof snow removal tools, such as a snow rake for pitched roof.
  • Try to keep a buildup of snow away from fire escapes, emergency building exits, drain downspouts, and ventilation openings.
  • Try to shave the snow down to a 2 or 3 inches on the roof instead of scraping the roof clean, which can damage your shingles. 
  • Be sure you have cleared any and all ground-level equipment that could be damaged by falling snow or ice.
  • Be aware of rooftop hazards such as vent pipes, skylights or other objects buried by significant snowfall.

The DON’TS of roof snow removal

  • Being on a roof is dangerous. Add snow and ice and it can become deadly. If you are not positive about your ability and safety, hire a professional, like the team at Crest Exteriors. 
  • Don’t use metal shovels or rakes or anything with a sharp edge—these can damage your shingles and cause even more damage. 
  • Don’t attempt to melt the snow using heated devices such as hair-dryers or heat guns—this will only make more ice, which is heavier than snow.
  • Don’t use a standard household ladder to remove snow yourself. Specialized ladders should be used, as regular ladders may develop ice on the rungs. 
  • Don’t attempt to do labor intensive work if you suffer from heart conditions or are not physically fit. 
  • Don’t use any sort of mechanical removal equipment, or you may damage the roof membrane.
  • Don’t stockpile snow in any area of your roof.
  • Don’t put salt products on your roof — salt can discolor shingles and kill plants or grass on the ground as it washes off.

How do you know when to hire a professional for snow removal? 

Before the storms come, having your roof inspected will give you the peace of mind that your roof is in solid condition, or gives you time to make any necessary repairs to prevent damage. 

Removing snow from a roof is not rocket science, but it can be extremely dangerous. Combine snow, ice, and heights, and it can be a recipe for disaster. Professional roofing companies like Crest Exteriors, have the experience and tools required to safely remove snow, repair and prevent further damage caused by ice dams. Removing the snow is far less expensive than a collapsed roof or damage from ice dams. 

If you need professional snow removal or would like to have your roof inspected for any existing problems before a large storm moves through, the professionals at Crest Exteriors are more than happy to come to your home and advise on any issues. Contact us today 1-866-316-4024 to learn more about how we can help.