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Your Roof and Snow: What do I need to know?
December 20, 2020 at 5:00 AM
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With the recent snow we had earlier this week it made our team think back to homes we’ve seen in the past and how mild winter weather conditions can cause damage that can't be seen from the ground. Roofing Systems are built to withstand tough weather conditions, including high winds, heavy rains, and snow & ice. However, during particular wet and cold winters, when snow doesn't have a chance to melt and it accumulates upon itself, there may be more to consider. Here’s what you need to know:

In general, roofs can withstand up to about 20 pounds of snow. How much does snow weigh?

  • It all depends on the moisture content of the snow. One foot of fresh (fluffy) snow weighs approximately 5 pounds per square foot on the roof. Thus, your roof can withstand about 4 feet of fresh snow comfortably. Old snow or wet snow that has had time to melt and refreeze and pack, weighs more. 3-5 inches of old snow weighs the same as a foot of new snow, which means your roof can only withstand about 2 feet deep of old snow. Ice is much heavier. One inch of ice is equivalent to a foot of fresh snow, so your roof can handle only about 4 inches of ice before trouble ensues.

Rain on snow spells danger.

  • When rain falls on accumulated snow, this can double and even triple the weight of snow, making it much more likely to cause damage. Think of the snow as a sponge that will absorb the moisture. Pay close attention to your roof if this weather occurs. Look for signs of overstress such as sagging ceilings, popping or cracking noises, doors and windows that no longer close, or cracks in walls. If you have any of these warning signs, contact a roofing contractor or immediately!

Pay extra attention to low slope areas

  • Roofs that are more steep shed water, snow and ice more effectively than low pitch roofs...unless you have a block in your gutters that can lead to an ice dam and water infiltration….YIKES!
  • This may sound elementary but if you have a porch or garage with a flat roof, pay close attention to this and take extra care to prevent snow and ice build up. These areas have the greatest risk for damage. If you choose to do this yourself please practice safety, or you can contact a local roofing professional to do the work safely.

Look for unbalanced snow.

  • With high winds after fresh snow you may notice drifting snow. Snow may accumulate at different depths in various areas of the roof, resulting in an unbalanced snow load making the snow pack deeper in certain areas of the roof which can pose a greater risk than evenly distributed snow. Where snow drifts have accumulated, your roof in that area is subjected to a greater snow load and thus, more likely to suffer damage.

Do not run space heaters in your attic.

  • You may be tempted to attempt to “melt” the snow off your roof by running space heaters in your attic or hiring fly by night contractors promising to melt ice & keep your home safe. This is a bad idea! Even if you were able to warm the roof sufficiently enough to melt the snow, the running snow would simply run until it could progress no further, pool up and re-freeze which will create an ice-dam increasing the potential for leaks.

If your roof was built to local building code – which means it was built to structurally withstand the snow that typically falls in our area – you should not have to worry. Keep these tips in mind, and be sure to hire a roofing contractor that adheres to local codes and regulations.

Are you concerned about your roof getting through this winter? We don't take the responsibility of working on your home or business lightly, we invite you to trust Best Exteriors, Inc. for residential and commercial roofing & gutter services. Give us a call at (614) 964-BEST or toll free 1-844-865-BEST You can also fill out our contact form to schedule a free consultation!