For many NJ residents, their home is the largest single investment. Homeowners do everything they can to protect their investment. They guard against risks that could put a home in jeopardy. They invest in high-quality roofing, siding and other materials that help to resist high winds and heavy precipitation.
In the winter, there’s often snow and ice to contend with. Nor’easters sometimes bury northern New Jersey homes under feet of snow. Winds may whip the snow into drifts many feet deep, even on rooftops. Sometimes, this snow is very wet and heavy. Subsequent rainstorms may saturate the snow to make it even heavier.
In some situations, snow may stress residential roofs to the point of collapse. An AccuWeather post sums it up well, “Heavy snow can pose a serious risk to roofs and cause some to collapse, creating dangerous conditions.” These dangerous conditions call for roof snow removal to be performed by a professional.
Roof Collapse Risk Factors
Some roofs are more prone to collapse than others. Here are some risk factors:
- Low-slope design
- Rotting of timbers from undetected leaks
- Weakening from large falling branches
- Extreme drifting
- Rain-saturated snow
Generally, the flatter the roof, the greater the potential for extreme snow accumulations. Compromised roofs are more prone to collapse. Undetected leaks or termite damage may have weakened the roof’s substructure. Consult FEMA’s Snow Load Safety Guide for more information. It includes a treasure trove of information about roof snow loads.
Roof Collapse: Dangers and Problems
A major roof collapse is dangerous. It can also make a home uninhabitable until roofing professionals complete repairs. In 2015, a series of Boston-area snowstorms led to the collapse of 44 roofs in just two days. The New York Times reported on a 2011 storm in Connecticut that led to widespread roof collapses at “Homes, shopping plazas … an airport hangar, a church, a sawmill, greenhouses, (and) small businesses.”
The weight of wet snow and rain-saturated snow can cause roof decking to sag or otherwise fail. In modern homes, roof decks often consist of plywood or oriented strand board (OSB). Some older roof decks feature solid wood planks placed horizontally over roof joists. All of these deck materials are vulnerable when leaks have rotted or otherwise weakened them. Over time, shingles curl, felt deteriorates and moisture intrudes. Sometimes, termites infest the moist wood, hastening its deterioration.
Joists and rafters
In a worst-case scenario, joists and rafters snap under the weight of heavy snow. Parts of the roof collapse. Once the integrity of the structure is compromised, it’s impossible to heat the home. Melting snow in the attic may cause water damage in living areas. Soggy drywall, waterlogged carpet and damaged possessions may follow.
Roof stress in the area of the chimney is of particular concern. Buckling or breaking joists may destabilize the area to the point that the chimney topples. Sometimes, bricks smash right through the roof deck.
Freeze-thaw cycles often turn heavy snow accumulations into ice dams. This process is very common in the Mid-Atlantic region. As ice builds up along the eaves, gutters bend and sometimes break. When the weather warms enough to allow for repairs, costs may be substantial. Prompt roof snow removal reduces the potential for ice dams. Keep in mind that it’s ideal to clean your gutters before difficult winter weather conditions ever arrive.
Roof Snow Removal Tips
Avoid a host of problems with roof snow removal. As AccuWeather Forensic Meteorologist Steve Wistar advises, “Home and business owners should hire contractors to remove the snow or use rakes if the roof is not too high.”
DIY snow removal
If you own a ranch home or other residence with a lower roof, consider an investment in a roof rake. Rakes with a bend near the handle improve leverage. Add handle extensions to improve your reach. Rollers near the teeth prevent them from catching and breaking the shingles. Don’t use rakes with conductive metal handles if there are overhead power lines. If you face this situation, go with fiberglass instead.
Professional snow removal
Ice dams and rain-saturated snow tend to further complicate roof snow removal. Therefore, year-round roofing professionals are an ideal choice. They have the safety training and awareness to cope with tricky winter conditions.
Also, roofs on many northern NJ homes are not accessible with a roof rake from the ground. Homeowners want to avoid scaling their own roofs. It’s a practice that’s particularly hazardous in the winter. Ladder rungs get icy. Snow and ice along the eaves make it difficult to even get on the roof.
Proactive Roof Maintenance
A solid, well-maintained roof is better able to withstand the rigors of winter. Long term, you want to be proactive. Arrange for annual or semi-annual roof inspections by a certified inspector in order to detect leaks and complete repairs in a timely way. Be ready to take on future winters with increased confidence.
Contact CRS for Assistance
CRS has 40 years of experience in the roofing business. We are a source of expert information about all kinds of roofing issues. If it can happen to a roof in northern New Jersey, we’ve seen it and solved it! We are factory-certified by two of North America’s largest roofing manufacturers, Owens Corning and GAF. Trust the NJ roofing contractor that the manufacturers trust.
In the winter, arrange for our roofing pros to tackle your roof snow removal needs. For prompt and courteous help, contact us today.