Snow piled up on a roof in Gig Harbor, WA Feb 2019 snowstorm

How To Protect Your Roof From Snow Damage

Snow on your roof can create serious problems.

  • Injuries or damage from snow and ice falling from sloped roofs 

A house in Schenectady, NY had a ruptured gas line when the snow on its roof turned to ice and fell off the house.

  • Roof collapse, especially on flat roofs
  • Water damage from ice dams forming on the edges of roofs and in gutters

In the Pacific Northwest, we generally do not see many winter storms – but it happens – and you need to take a few precautions.

Snow on a roof in Gig Harbor, WA

There are simple steps you can take to protect your roof (and your home) from snow damage. 

Start by being preemptive.

Insulation. Adding insulation to your attic is simple and effective. Heat escaping through your roof due to poor insulation will cause the snow to melt and run off. This might not be a bad thing until it happens on the coldest days.

The lower portion of most roofs are not over a ‘heated’ space. As the water gets to the roof edge and overhangs it can freeze. Melting snow can get trapped and work its way under these ice dams, getting under shingles and into the decking. Ice dams, if they build up over gutters, prevent proper drainage when the weather warms up. This can lead to damaged gutters, water getting behind the gutters, and pooling at the foundation. 

Adding insulation helps prevent ice dams while decreasing heating costs. 

Proper ventilation. Supplemental to proper insulation is proper ventilation. 

 

“In cold climates, the primary purpose of attic or roof ventilation is to maintain a cold roof temperature to control ice dams created by melting snow, and to vent moisture that moves from the conditioned space to the attic” ~ Building Science Corporation

 

A well ventilated attic will help prevent ice dams and the resulting damage. 

Cleaning your gutters. Clean gutters mean water can flow off your roof and away from your home’s foundation. If they are full of debris, snow can accumulate quicker and ice dams build up faster. 

Prune those trees. Trees limbs can and do break under the weight of snow and ice. Branches hanging over a roof can cause significant damage if they break. With roofs being dangerous to work on in winter, repairs will need to wait, allowing things to get worse. 

Have your roof inspected. Snow and ice accumulation do not only cause new problems. They can make existing ones worse. Damaged or missing tiles allow water an easy access point. The same applies to flashing. Unlike rain which runs off the roof, snow and ice mean water can easily get trapped. Colder temperatures can further damage shingles making water penetration more likely. Repair small problems before they become bigger ones. 

 

What should you do if snow does accumulate on your roof?

You can use a roof rake to remove as much snow as possible, but be careful. Roof rakes are designed to prevent damage to the roof surface, however, improper use can still create problems. Remain on the ground and protect yourself from the snow (and ice) being removed if you use a roof rake.

Our best advice is still to call a professional

 

After the snow has cleared.

If you hadn’t had your roof inspected previously, you notice your gutters not draining, or see what may be damage, get your roof inspected. Repair any issues before the next snowfall.

Routine maintenance and care is still the best way to protect your roof and protect your investment.

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  1. […] problems for a roof. While we’ve discussed a few of these in in an earlier article on protecting your roof from snow damage, we’ll dig a bit deeper […]

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