single family brick house with snow on roof

Snow Can Damage Your Roof, but Here’s How to Prevent Damage

When it’s the middle of summer, and we’re all battling mosquitoes and black flies, it’s hard to think about the winter snow that inevitably comes our way once the calendar pages start turning. But we all know that the heavy Minnesota snowfall can wreak havoc on homes, especially on roofs. So it’s not too soon to start preparing and planning so you can avoid snow damage to your roof this winter.

Snow Can Damage Your Roof, but Here’s How to Prevent Damage

Roofs are very susceptible to winter damage due to the weight and moisture of the snow. Add in some ice or wind, and you have a recipe for disaster. Let’s see what happens to make the lovely winter snow turn into a problem for homeowners.

How Can Snow Damage Your Roof?

The winter wonderland that we enjoy each year brings hazards to your roof. Here are the three primary ways that snow causes damage:

  1. Ice dams: As you heat your home during the winter, the roof warms up, causing accumulated snow to melt. The melted snow flows down to the edge of the roof where the temperature drops and then refreezes into ice. If this happens repeatedly, a blockage, or ice dam, forms. Once the ice dam forms, the snowmelt has to go somewhere. It takes the most natural path down the slope, and, unfortunately, that path is usually under your shingles and flashings. Roofs are not designed to handle this much moisture seeping underneath, so eventually, you will have leaks.
  2. Roof collapse: That light, fluffy snowflake that floats down so gently is a beast when it joins all of its friends on your roof. The water content of typical midwest snowfall means that one inch of accumulation weighs about one pound per square foot. That doesn’t sound like a lot until you start thinking about the weight of six inches of accumulation, or a foot, or even more. And if there is ice, the weight goes up quickly. Just one inch of ice can weigh as much as a foot of snow. The weight of that much snow and ice can quickly become a problem and puts any roof, even a new one, at risk of collapse. Did you know that even the Metrodome roof collapsed after 10 inches of snowfall? Any roof is at danger of collapsing if the snow gets too heavy.
  3. Leaky skylights: Skylights are beautiful additions to Midwest homes, allowing extra light in during the dark winter months. However, they can quickly become a problem during heavy snowfall. Melting snow can run under the skylight’s flashings, creating nightmarish leaks for the homeowner. The excess condensation build up can cause the skylight to break altogether.

Signs You Need to Get Snow Removed From Your Roof

How will you know if your roof is accumulating too much snow? When is it time to hire someone to remove the snow? If you witness any of these signs, call the experts at Advanced Roofing & Siding right away:

  • Cracking or creaking sounds coming from the roof
  • Ice blockages in gutters or downspouts
  • Difficulty getting doors or windows to open
  • Twisting or cracking in joists or beams
  • Ceiling tiles are drooping or sagging
  • You see leaks

How to Protect Your Roof to Prevent Damage

Well, that was a lot of the bad news. Now, let’s take a look at some good news. There are steps you can take to prevent these winter woes in the first place. You will need to be proactive and plan before winter even arrives. Summer and fall are ideal times to address problems and concerns before you find yourself with big disasters. Here are some of the best preventive measures you can take:

Before the snow comes:

  • Be sure gutters and downspouts are clear. Leaves, twigs and other autumn debris can clog your gutters quickly, and you may not know until it is too late. Routine cleaning, either on your own or by a professional, will ensure that your gutters and spouts start winter season in their best shape possible.
  • Have a roof inspection done by a licensed roofer to check for loose or missing shingles, damaged flashing, and skylight concerns. It is far better to address any problems before the winter weather arrives. Waiting could end up costing you thousands more in repairs.
  • Consider installing heating mats or cables that can be used to melt ice and snow.

Once the snow arrives:

  • Check downspouts and gutters daily for ice formation. Remove any ice buildup immediately to keep the snow-melt draining correctly. Remove any debris that falls and clogs gutters and spouts.
  • Pay attention to the type of snow you get. Wetter snow, which is more common in the midwest and northeast, is significantly heavier than the dry snow the western states typically receive. Your roof can tolerate much less accumulation of wet snow.
  • Keep your home’s attic adequately ventilated to help reduce ice dam formation.
  • If you need to wait for a roofer, use a telescoping snow rake to remove what snow you can during heavy snowfall. Leave a couple of inches of snow on the roof, so you do not risk damaging the roof with the rake. CAUTION: DO NOT TRY TO REMOVE THE SNOW BY CLIMBING UP ON THE ROOF.  ICY ROOFTOPS ARE VERY DANGEROUS.

Already Have Snow Damage? What to Do Now

In spite of your best intentions and preventive measures, the fact remains that sometimes damage happens anyway. A storm could be strong enough that you can’t keep up with the necessary work to keep your roof safe. If you suspect the roof is structurally damaged, get everyone out of the house. A collapsed roof can be deadly.If the damage is significant, call your homeowner’s insurance agent to see if you can file a claim for storm damage. Many policies will cover repairs in this situation. Reach out to Advanced Roofing & Siding for help with your preventive work, roof repairs, and snow removal. And of course, if it’s time for a new roof before the snow comes, we’ll handle that too.

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