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What to Look for on Your Roof this Winter

During the winter season, homeowners should pay special attention to their roofs and problems caused by wintry weather. Snow, sleet, ice and rain will all test the fortitude of a roof’s construction, materials and their installation. A roof can experience ice dams, icicles, avalanches and even collapse under the impacts of the season, so it is in the best interest of the homeowner to pay special attention.

The colder winter months will primarily test the insulation and ventilation of a home. Proper insulation and ventilation of an attic will keep heat inside of a home, and may help homeowners save money on heating costs. The right combination of insulation and ventilation will also prevent ice dams from forming on the roof.

An ice dam is a layer of ice that forms at the edge of a roof when heat from an attic can cause snow on the roof to melt. The melted snow can then reach the cold overhang at the eave and re-freeze, causing an ice dam. Large, prevalent icicles can be one indicator that an ice dam has formed. The key concern with ice dams is that water from melting snow can back up behind the dam and fi­nd its way under shingles, then leak into your home.

Another problem that homeowners may experience under certain weather conditions are roof avalanches. On some steep slopes, snow packed on a roof can release off all at once. The weight and sudden slough of snow during roof avalanches can be very dangerous to areas directly below the eaves. Home and building owners may cordon off this area to prevent access. Other buildings in high snowfall regions will also install cross bars to retain the snow load on the roof.

In the rare instance that winter storms load a roof with an exceptionally large amount of snow and ice, roof collapse may become a concern. To gauge when the weight on a roof is in the danger zone, follow these guidelines from the Institute for Business and Home Safety. If a roof requires snow removal, contacting a roofing professional with a roof rake is advised. Roof rakes are specially designed tools for safe snow removal. The rake, when used properly, from the ground, will not endanger the remover or damage the roof. Improper use of the roof rake can cause premature granule loss to the shingles and may create damage that could lead to leaks.  

 

How Much Snow is Too Much? This chart shows the amount of snow and ice that equals 5 lbs. per square foot. Your roof should be able to support 20 lbs. per sure foot of roof space. Fresh snow: 10 to 12 inches. Packed snow: 3 to 5 inches. Ice: 1 inch.