New Jersey roofs are designed to withstand the elements. They need to be strong enough to survive, year after year. Whether it’s winter, spring, summer or fall, high winds and other extreme events routinely assault residential roofs. In the winter, nor’easters sometimes dump massive amounts of heavy, wet snow on area rooftops. Proper protection of the home and its occupants is at stake.
Damage From the Weight of Snow
However, heavy accumulations of snow sometimes stress New Jersey roofs. They may sag or completely fail. The question becomes, “How much snow is too much?” There are many factors to consider, including:
- Water content of the snow
- Age and condition of the roof
- Rain further saturating the snow
A fresh fall of wet snow can weigh more than 20 pounds per cubic foot. Suppose your neighborhood gets hit with an 18-inch snowfall. That’s a 30-pound load on every 12-inch by 12-inch section.
If the snow was evenly distributed, the total weight on a 1,500 square foot roof would be more than 20 tons. Of course, the layer of snow on your roof is rarely even from edge to edge. High winds are common in bad storms. Drifting snow blows off the ridges and accumulates in the valleys, increasing localized loads. For example, a five-foot drift of wet, heavy snow may weigh 100 pounds per square foot.
And that’s not the end of the story. Snow is so porous that it absorbs a great deal of moisture when heavy rain occurs. Water flowing toward snow-clogged roof valleys makes things even worse. For these reasons, loads on certain parts of the roof increase exponentially. Repeated freeze-thaw cycles lead to severe ice dams that weigh more than 50 pounds per cubic foot.
Most often, roofs collapse due to a combination of factors. Snow and ice accumulations on a compromised roof are a real concern. What do we mean by “compromised roof?” It’s a roof that was previously weakened in some way.
Wet rot, dry rot and termites all compromise the load-bearing capacity of a roof. Light, fluffy snow weighs as little as six or seven pounds per cubic foot. It’s the wet, heavy snow that is the culprit. It can weigh several times that. Saturate a two-foot snowfall with heavy rain, and a compromised roof may sustain damage. Worse yet, parts of it could collapse.
Undetected leaks may attack wood framing for years. Sometimes, water makes its way down the rafters, and the damage occurs far from the source of the leak. Wood with wet rot gets soft and spongy. Unfortunately, the wood’s natural color often remains. This makes the damage easy to overlook if it is examined by an untrained eye.
Dry rot is another enemy that saps a roof’s strength. Dry rot results from a fungus that weakens wood by attacking the cellulose. The fungus thrives in high humidity areas. Attics lacking adequate ventilation are examples. One source speaks of dry rot in blunt terms. “Due to its destructive nature, Serpula lacrymans is often referred to as building cancer.”
In New Jersey, there are also drywood termites to deal with. They are quite common throughout the state. Sometimes they colonize in wood rafters and beams. Those structures weaken as the insects consume the cellulose in the wood. Damage that occurs during the spring, summer and fall may go undetected. Then, in the winter, the weakened structure may not survive a heavy snowfall.
There are two key solutions to the problem of snow piling up on New Jersey roofs. One is professional snow removal. The other is more preventative in nature. Have your roof routinely inspected. You’ll want to maintain it so it will handle the loads the roof’s designer intended.
Professional snow removal
It’s often tricky to climb up on a roof in even ideal weather. Inclement weather poses hazards for those tackling snow accumulations with a snow rake. DIY snow removal is tempting but often treacherous. Boots can slip off rungs of the ladder. Moving from the ladder to the roof and back again may be fraught with peril. Roofing specialists know how to cope with safety hazards.
Indiscriminate raking can also do more harm than good. Catching a corner of a shingle often fractures it. Asphalt shingles are quite pliable in the summer heat. However, they get downright brittle when frigid Arctic air flows across the region.
Regular roof inspections
It is more likely that a well-maintained roof will hold up when heavy snow arrives in the Garden State. Ensure the integrity of your roof. Arrange for regular inspections by a certified roof inspector.
It pays to be proactive. Semi-annual or annual roof inspections protect you against undetected threats to your roof. Inspections reveal the need for minor repairs before they become major ones. Timely roof maintenance is even more important in a state where many homes are older. For example, one article focuses on century-old Bergen County homes.
Contact Us Today
When snow piles up on your roof, contact the roofing specialists at CRS are here to help. We’ll remove heavy snow from your roof, and we’ll do it in a safe manner. Homeowners across northern New Jersey have looked to CRS since 1977.
Our roofing services include everything from roof inspections to full roof replacements. We offer siding, insulation and pressure washing services as well. For friendly, expert service, please contact us today.