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As soon as the first snowstorm hits, hardware stores display all kinds of roof rakes. Snow can cause a roof to collapse or ice dams from the weight and moisture on the roof, but also provides insulation. Should you always clean snow off as part of your roof maintenance?  More than 6 inches can be harmful, but determining when you need to remove snow from your winter roof can be complicated.

Raking Your Roof

Raking your roof causes damage to shingles, so you don’t want to do so unnecessarily. When you do have to rake your roof, always use a downward motion and never place the rake directly on the shingles. Leave a few inches of snow on the roof and slide the rake over the snow.

Density of Snow

Snowstorms in the Southeast are more unusual but tend to be wetter.  Typical roofs can withstand up to 20 lbs of snow per square foot. Heavy, wet snow weighs up to 21 lbs per square foot, whereas light, fluffy snow can weigh just 3 lbs per square foot. You can calculate snow load using Cornell’s online calculator, but most homeowners take a less mathematical approach. If the snow feels like it would make a great snowman, it’s a good idea to clear it off. If the snow is light fluffy and under a foot or the forecast calls for melting, let the sun take care of it.

Impact of Old Snow, Ice, and Icicles

You also need to factor in existing snow and ice on your winter roof.  If you have had a wet snowstorm and the forecast calls for a freeze, it is even more essential to remove it.  Old snow weighs more than new snow, so it increases the load on the roof.  Ice is very heavy with an inch equal to about 5 lbs.  Icicles are a sign of ice dams, which can be very problematic for your home.  Ice dams form when heat escapes from the house, creates moisture, but is unable to run off the roof because of ice build. It sweeps back into the house, causing leaks and cracks on interior walls.  If you are having problems with ice dams, it is vital to call a roofing professional for repairs to prevent more damage.

Type and Age of Roof

Snow easily slides off metal roofs, so they don’t need to be cleared off as frequently.  Flat and low-slope roofs also need to be raked more regularly.  Older roofs, especially those with a history of ice dams, should be cleaned off as part of regular winter roof maintenance. If you are wondering if it is time for a new roof,  this information can help you assess your situation.

To learn more, FEMA provides a detailed guide to snow loadRegular roof maintenance earlier in the year will decrease problems during the winter.  Always consider personal safety and physical ability when working on your roof. In addition to risks from climbing onto your roof, cleaning off heavy snow is extremely taxing. Contact a professional snow removal company if you are worried about doing it on your own. If you have concerns about your roof, Model City Roofing is always here to help.