The question of how to remove snow from a roof is one homeowners ask almost every winter. Throughout history, there have been many wives’ tales and interesting techniques created to attempt to remove snow from a roof. In fact, one even suggests using a rope to lasso snow off the roof. Unfortunately, this rather creative technique works mostly with fluffy snow. That is, the kind found in the Great Lakes snow belts or high in the mountains.
When it comes down to it, and especially when the safety of yourself and your home is concerned, professional snow removal truly is the best option.
Why Roof Snow Removal is Important
Roof snow removal addresses two problems: roof loads and ice dams.
Snow removal gets the weight off your roof. Heavy, wet snow may weigh more than 20 pounds per cubic foot. It weighs far more when saturated with subsequent rainfalls. Water weighs more than 62 pounds per cubic foot. Since water expands as it freezes, ice weighs a little less – about 57 pounds per cubic foot.
Consider this scenario: a blizzard dumps 18 inches of heavy, wet snow across northern New Jersey. A few days later, an inch of rain falls, further saturating the snow. Your roof is now supporting tons of snow. If your roof is aging, or if you have multiple layers of shingles on the roof, there’s added risk. All that snow may stress it enough to cause sagging or even a roof collapse.
Every winter, New Jersey is a weather battleground. There’s the warm, moist air flowing in off the Atlantic and cold Arctic air blowing in from Canada. Cycles of freezing, thawing and heavy precipitation combine to make ice dams a real threat on NJ roofs. FEMA’s Snow Load Safety Guide says, “Temperatures fluctuating above and below freezing can produce hazardous conditions. Snow melts and then refreezes, creating ice and ice dams and resulting in higher concentrated loads at roof low points …”
During a New Jersey winter, there are many days when the temperature rises above freezing during the day only to drop into the 20s (or lower) at night. Snow melts, and the water freezes along the eaves. Ice dams occur as a result. The greater the snow accumulation on the roof, the greater the threat posed by ice dams.
If ice dams plague your home, consider having a roofing contractor remove them. Then, address the issue for the long-term as well. Inadequate attic insulation often makes the problem worse. Warm air in your living space escapes into the roof, resulting in excess snowmelt. The water runs down toward the eaves, sometimes refreezing before it drains away. Resolving attic insulation issues can also reduce energy costs.
Options for Roof Snow Removal
It’s time for action when there’s a question of how to remove snow from a roof. Some homeowners attempt to remove it by themselves. Others call on a roofing contractor for roof snow removal. DIY roof snow removal can be quite hazardous. It’s tricky enough to walk around on one’s roof even in the best of weather. In the winter, ice and snow can make it very treacherous.
Snow removal recommendations vary. Travelers Insurance says, “If more than a foot of heavy, wet snow and ice has accumulated on your roof, you should have it removed.” If your roof has a history of ice dams, you should especially consider snow removal whenever there are at least six inches of snow on the roof.
Do it yourself
Keep in mind that roof snow removal is different than cleaning your driveway or sidewalk where you don’t have to completely clear the snow off the shingles. You can scrape a shovel across a sidewalk, but you can’t do that on your shingles. You’d remove protective granules that are there to protect the asphalt shingles. You might even break shingles made brittle by the sub-freezing cold.
Roof rakes work well on freshly fallen snow. With a long handle or handle extensions, it is often possible to reach key parts of the roof while safely standing on the ground. However, it’s not always easy to get sufficient leverage. This is especially true with ice-crusted snow, or snow that’s been saturated by heavy rain. Rollers or wheels keep the edge of the roof rake’s blade from scraping those protective granules off your shingles. They also lessen the chance you’ll catch the edge of a shingle, breaking it in the process.
There are things to avoid with DIY snow removal:
- Keep a metal roof rake far away from any overhead power lines.
- Sharp objects and sharp metal edges easily damage shingles and flashing. Therefore, avoid the use of ice picks and metal shovels.
- Don’t try to melt snow and ice with salt – it can discolor shingles. Next spring, salty water may kill grass and plants.
- Don’t leave temporary piles of snow anywhere on the roof during the snow removal process.
While DIY roof snow removal is an option, it’s best to leave it to the professionals to ensure that the process is done correctly, efficiently and safely.
Hire a professional
Take care when hiring someone to remove snow from your roof. As Travelers says, “Always be sure any contractor you hire is qualified, insured and bonded.” Roofing professionals are familiar with how to safely walk around a roof. After all, they do it on roof after roof as they complete re-roofing and repair projects.
Anyone who climbs up on your roof must have adequate insurance. Otherwise, there is always the risk of a claim filed against your homeowner’s policy.
Contact Us Today
When you’re wondering how to remove snow from a roof, call on the experts at CRS. We’ve met the roofing needs of NJ homeowners since 1977. CRS is a full service, factory-certified roofing contractor. We offer everything from routine roof maintenance to complete roof replacements. For a professional assessment of your ice dam issues, schedule a visit with our certified roof inspector.
To arrange for professional snow removal or other roofing services, please contact us today.