When Snowfall Endangers The Roof: What Every Homeowner Should Know

Carlos Bowman

Winter is here, and many homeowners are dealing with snowfall on a weekly or even daily basis. Yet one thing that many homeowners fail to think about is the impact that snow can have on their roof. Snow is weighty, and heavy snowfalls can damage a roof or even cause it to collapse. 

How Much Snow Is Too Much?

Since different types of snow can have different weights and densities, and some roofs are more capable of handling a big snowfall than others, there is no single depth or amount of snow that can be pointed to as being "too much." 

Fluffy dry snow weighs much less than wet, compacted snow. In addition, snow rolls off steep rooftops more readily than off low-slope rooftops. Homeowners with low-slope rooftops must be particularly cognizant of the state of their roof during wet, heavy snowfall. The structural integrity of the roof will also play a role. Roofs that have been damaged by leaks, fire or termites may collapse under much less strain than roofs that have been structurally reinforced.

What Are the Warning Signs That the Roof Is In Distress?

As a homeowner, it's important to perform regular inspections of the roof after or during heavy snowfalls. The signs of roof distress include:

  • Cracks in the trusses.
  • Bowed beams or pipes.
  • Cracking, popping or groaning noises.

When the roof is in distress, the frame of the house may shift or bend to accommodate the additional weight. When this happens, doors that have always swung with ease may become stuck in a shut or open position. Windows that once opened or closed easily may no longer do so. If this is the case, the home should be evacuated and immediate action should be taken to remove the snow from the roof. 

How Can Snow Be Removed?

Many roofing companies will remove snow from overburdened roofs. Homeowners can remove snow from the ground with a rake or a long pole, but may not be able to reach the upper portions of the roof. Going up on the roof is dangerous without proper equipment and homeowners should not attempt to climb onto the roof themselves. 

Once the snow is removed, the house may be out of immediate danger. However, a larger problem still exists. The roof may need to be structurally reinforced to withstand the weight of future snows. Homeowners worried about their roofs should consult with a roofing company like Great Canadian Roofing and Exteriors or structural engineer.