After heavy snowfalls, you may wonder if your roof can hold up to the weight of such significant snow accumulation without issues. The good news is that most roofs are not in danger of a cave-in. However, it’s still important to keep your roof cleared from heavy amounts of snow. It’s also essential that your attic space is well-insulated to prevent too much heat from escaping through the roof. These steps are important to prevent ice dams.
Why Ice Dams are a Threat to Your Roof
Ice dams are barriers of ice caused by snow melting on the upper portion of the roof and refreezing around the bottom perimeter and the gutters. As this melting and refreezing continues, water pools behind the ice dams. It has to find somewhere to go, which often means leaking into your roof via weaknesses in the shingles. If this problem goes on for a while, it can cause structural damage to your home. Large icicles can be a sign that ice dams are forming on that part of your roof. Knocking down these icicles doesn’t take care of the dams, and once they have formed they are difficult to get rid of without professional intervention.
To prevent ice dams from forming, routinely remove excess snow off of your roof throughout winter. Your roof doesn’t have to be completely cleared. Instead, aim to remove the top layers of snow from your roof after every 6 inches of snowfall that accumulates over a short period. Also keep your gutters clear of obstructions to allow for the free flow of water. Gutter covers or screens can help with this.
Using a Roof Rake
The best way to safely and successfully remove snow from your roof is to use a roof rake. A roof rake is a relatively inexpensive tool you can use to pull the snow from your roof. You want one with a plastic blade, either with or without rollers. These work best for pitched roofs to pull the snow down from the overhangs, where it is most likely to freeze into ice dams. An extension pole is recommended to reach farther without having to use a ladder, which can ice over in winter.
To use a roof rake, start from the outside edges of your roof and clear the snow from the bottom first. Then work your way up to the top in small segments, clearing the roof in these ascending layers. Establish a routine for raking your roof regularly, using the 6 inch rule of thumb. Keeping up with this throughout the winter months can prevent an accumulation of snow that would cause ice dams or other issues.
- For flat roofs, you can use a shovel to remove snow build-up, but if the snow is of the heavy, wet variety this can be especially difficult. Shoveling can only be done a few times a year, as shoveling your roof too often can damage the shingles.
- Sprinkle roof salt on small areas of ice accumulation, especially around your gutters. This is only effective for small patches of ice, however.
What Not to Do
If you own a two story or taller home with a pitched roof, only remove the snow you can reach. Resist the urge to climb on your roof as this can be dangerous. If you choose to work on a ladder to use your roof rake, make sure you have stable footing, don’t go up more than halfway on the ladder, and don’t overextend yourself trying to reach more of the snow.
Other Don’ts to Remember:
- Don’t use a metal rake or shovel because these can damage your roof. Only use plastic tools.
- Don’t pile snow on the roof.
- Don’t pull too much snow down from the top at once. It will stick to the lower area of the roof and begin to create a packed-in, dense ridge.
- Don’t use salt products meant to melt ground snow on your roof. Use only products that are labelled for roofs.
If you’ve had issues with ice dams in the past, or notice damage to your roof such as missing shingles, don’t wait for signs of a leak inside. A new roof might be your best option for preventing structural damage. For a professional assessment, call Budget Exteriors at 781-504-2346. Our friendly experts can perform a full inspection of your roof and offer solutions. Visit us on Facebook for more tips on how to maintain your roof at https://www.facebook.com/Budget-Exteriors/.