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Snow on top of a roof

Snow removal on the ground can be a royal pain in the butt, not to mention doing it on your roof. The reality is though, removing snow from your roof is vital for 2 important reasons. Why?

  • Ice Dams
  • Excess Weight

In this article, we will also explain how to determine when you need to take action. Additionally, what tools are most effective and least damaging to your roof.

Prevent Ice Dams

What are ice dams? Ice dams consist of a ridge of ice that forms usually around the edge of your roof. In most cases, ground zero is the eavestrough and they build from there. They can also be seen around skylights, roof vents and where two roofs converge.

ice covered on roof

Ice dams form because of poor insulation or ventilation in the attic. When heat from your house escapes into the attic a reaction occurs. The heat from your attic causes the roofing material to heat up and melt the snow on your roof. Once the water reaches the edge of the roof where the temperature is below 0C it freezes. This melting and refreezing process cause ice dams to form creating a great place for water to pool.

Your attic was never meant to be the same temperature as your home, it’s supposed to be only a few degrees difference from outside. Proper insulation/ventilation keeps your attic at the proper temperature.

Ice dams need to be addressed since they can cause damage to shingles and eavestroughs. Yes, ice is stronger than shingles. Besides this ice can weigh up to 5 times heavier than snow adding weight to your roof. This brings us to the next reason to remove snow from your roof.

Prevent Excess Weight

Another reason why you should remove snow and ice from your roof is the excess stress this puts on a roof. Even 12 or fewer inches of snow/ice on your roof divided equally can weigh thousands of pounds! Ice on the other hand weighs, even more, just one cubic foot can weigh in at 57 lbs, meaning that even one dam could weigh thousands of pounds.

Roof covered in snow

Although your roof is built to handle some weight, the excess weight of snow and ice can increase the risk of leaking and collapsing.

How much weight is too much weight on your roof? A nice easy test you can do at home is: open and close all your windows and doors. If you notice they are not operating smooth or if there is friction, this is likely caused by excess weight.

Another tall tale sign that your roof has too much snow accumulation is when you start hearing cracking noises. This is a sign of overload on the trusses and joists. Act quickly to remove the snow or ice build-up.

However, this should not be your only gauge.

When to Remove Snow From Your Roof

Depending on your roof you may want to think about removing snow after 6 inches have accumulated. This is especially true if your roof is prone to ice dams and icicles forming. However, if your only concern is excess weight then consider removing snow after a foot and a half to two feet of snow accumulates.

There can also be a number of other factors to consider, such as:

Type of Roof

Although it can be costly, metal roofs handle snow the best. They are the most durable roofing material and they shed snow with ease preventing ice from forming. Generally, metal roofs should not be cleaned in the winter, as you can bend and damage them. If it must be cleaned only use a roof rake, but be careful about racking a metal roof, or before you know it you could bury yourself in snow. Many have faced serious injury from falling snow from their roof, so stand back far enough.

Asphalt roofs are also a good competitor if your looking for durability under harsh winter conditions and are a fraction of the cost to repair. With asphalt though, it does not shed snow as easily as metal. Diligence is required to keep snow off. While you may not have to remove snow from a metal roof as often, an asphalt roof will hold up to snow removal better.

Compared to slate or wood shingles, metal or asphalt roofing will hold up to snow the best. However, even with a metal or asphalt roof, caution is still required if you don’t have the proper pitch.

Pitch of Your Roof

This is not a hard and fast rule but, the long and short of it is, the steeper your roof is the less likely you have to remove snow from it. This is especially true of metal roofs. Often with the right pitch, a metal roof will shed snow without any assistance.

On the other hand, we have seen asphalt and wood roofs that hold snow at even very high pitched roofs. In these cases, snow removal is required, but it increases the job hazards. If you are not comfortable removing snow from your roof because of the pitch, don’t be a hero, call the professionals.

Design of Your Roof

There are some beautiful roofs out there but the reality is they are not practical. This is no jab at architects, but architects go to school to make things look nice, however, the practicality of some roofs is questionable at best.

For example, many converging roofs (valleys) look really cool, but these designs not only cost an arm and a leg but also create a lot of work and expense for a homeowner. Converging roofs or valleys is a trap for snow and ice build-up. Hence why depending on the design of your roof, you will want to check your roof after 6 inches of snowfall.

The reason this is so important is that while one section of your roof appears to only have 6 inches the valley may have upwards of one or two feet of snow. Besides the weight this puts on your roof, your converging roofs may be holding ice underneath the snow and wreaking havoc on the shingles.

A simple roof gable is best. They are stronger, sturdier and they shed snow with minimal effort on your part.

Another design to your home that you may want to keep tabs on is your ventilation maximums. Your roof may have several maximums that you can’t see from the ground. So make sure you know where they are located on your roof and pay close attention to them.

I’ve had many clients that had snow cover up these vents and when it melted the water would flow into their home! – Bruse Hulse

When you have a ventilation maximum covered in snow, the potential of water infiltrating the attic increases. As soon as the snow starts melting the water can get into your attic and could reach insulation or worst yet drywall in the ceiling. Save yourself the cost of huge repairs by keeping snow clear of such designs on your roof. Usually, the best types of vents are ridge vents! They are a pain for the roofer to install properly but very beneficial for the owner.

Tools for Removing Snow on Your Roof

First of all, there is a tool for snow removal and tools for dealing with ice dams.

Tools for Snow

The best tool for preventing ice dams or excess weight from snow on your roof is a roof rake or shovel. That’s right, back to the basics. Keep in mind, the only type of roof rake or shovel you use should be plastic. Avoid using metal, as it will damage your roof. In fact, the best roof rakes will have little rollers or bumpers on the blade. This keeps your rake from damaging the integrity of your shingles or scratching the metal.

Try to take the same approach to shovel your roof as brushing your teeth. Brushing too hard or too often can damage the enamel of your teeth. Similarly, be balanced and gentle when shoveling or raking snow from your roof.

Roof Rake

Check out this approach if you are wanting some helpful tips for using a roof rake.

Tools for Ice Dams

If you find that your roof already has an ice dam(s) then you will want to consider using roof ice melt tablets. They look a lot like little hockey pucks. How it works is, as soon as they come into contact with snow and ice they melt away existing ice dams. They create a path of least resistance to allow water to flow off your roof and not into your attic! They work the best after you have removed the snow though.

Ice covered on roof

Not to be confused with regular road salt that you may use on your driveway or sidewalk. Road salt will destroy your roof and eavestroughs. Road salt cost less but do not use it as it will lead to costly repairs!

On the off chance that ice melt is doing the trick. The go-to tool of professionals is an ice steaming machine. These tools use low-pressure steam and can break up any ice dams created on your roof. However, unless you get into the business purchasing one can run you thousands of dollars.

Many Ice steamers cannot be run during extremely cold temperatures, because they need to be hooked up to a water source. Unless you transport water in a heated tank it will freeze, but who has one of those lying around. Don’t even think about using the garden hose.

Clear Ottawa has you covered. Our state of the art Arctic Blaster will melt all your worries away without the use of water. Yes even in the extremes we are your Ice Dam vigilante’s.

Ice Steamer Machine

To Recap:

Removing snow from your roof is important to two reasons. You will decrease the likelihood of ice dams forming and from excess weight being put on your roof.

You should consider removing snow from your roof after 6 inches (15cm) has accumulated. However, also consider the type of roofing material you have, the pitch of your roof and the design. These 3 variables can mean you have to remove snow more often or less often.

When considering the type of tools to remove snow on your roof, your first go to should be a plastic shovel or a roof rake. Keeping your roof clear of snow in the first place will prevent ice dams and excess weight.

If your roof is prone to ice dams or they have already formed consider ice melt tablets or a steamer for the best results.

As with any jobs that are on the roof, if you feel unsafe or uncomfortable doing them yourself call a professional. Its not worth the risk of injury or your life. If that’s your situation, give Clear Ottawa a call to help you keep your roof clear this winter.

Contact Clear Ottawa Windows Today!