Roof Snow Removal

Why it’s Important to Remove Roof Snow and How to Properly Remove It

By Mark J. Donovan

Roof snow removal is just another standard winter task for many folks living here in northern New England, and other cold snowy regions around the world. It is particularly a necessity for homes with shallow roof pitches. Typically after every major snow storm here in New Hampshire I remove snow off the lower pitched roof sections of our home.

There are two main reasons for roof snow removal. First, snow can be extremely heavy and can severely stress the structural integrity of a roof.

If the roof snow is deep enough or high in water content, the weight of the snow could exceed the safe carrying capacity of the roof and could cause the roof to sag and deflect, or even worse collapse.

In addition, if the heavy snow load remains on the roof for an extended period of time, the roof sagging or deflection can become permanent. Fortunately most roofs are constructed to local building codes that factor in the average expected winter snow loads, so these types of issues should not be too significant of a concern. However, the roof load designs are based on averages, and so when there is a high accumulation of roof snow it is usually wise to remove some of it.

The second major reason for roof snow removal is that even with a properly insulated attic and sufficient roof ventilation, ice dams can form under the roof snow. Ice dams can cause water to get up underneath the roof shingles. When this happens water will find its way into the attic and eventually the living areas of the home. In addition, refreezing water under the roof shingles can cause the shingles and the roof sheathing to become damaged.

The best tool for roof snow removal is the snow rake. It consists of a long telescopic handle and a large flat blade on the end of it with a plastic covering over the blade edge.

Use a snow rake to remove excess snow from the roof.

The roof snow rake allows you to remove snow from the roof without having to get up on the roof. Working on a snow covered roof is extremely dangerous and should not be done by a homeowner without the proper safety equipment.

When removing roof snow with a snow rake simply extend the rake up approximately 2 feet over the edge of the roof and pull the snow towards you with the rake. Make sure you are not standing directly under the roof to avoid getting hit by the falling snow and icicles. After removing the first couple of feet of snow from the edge of the roof, repeat the process again to effectively take away 4 feet of snow from the roof edge. If you can still reach, and feel compelled to make another pass, remove an additional 2 feet of roof snow.

Note, however, that you do not typically need to remove all of the roof snow. By clearing away 4 to 6 feet from the roof edge you can dramatically decrease the stress on the roof and eliminate the risk of ice dams.

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If the roof snow is extremely deep, such as 24 inches or more, you may need to use a snow shovel to remove the roof snow. Again, I highly suggest not climbing up on the roof if you can at all avoid it. Not only do you risk falling from the roof, but by standing on it you further stress the roof load capacity. The use of a ladder, along with the snow shovel, is often all that is required to reach and remove the first 2 to 4 feet of snow from the roof edge.

Snow also has a tendency to accumulate more in roof valleys and near chimneys and vent stack pipes. So when performing roof snow removal make sure to also clear out snow in these areas as well, as they are often high structural stress areas on the roof.

For more help on Shingling Your Home’s Roof, see’s Asphalt Shingle Roofing Bid Sheet. The Asphalt Shingle Roofing Bid Sheet will help to ensure that your roof won’t end up with a blue tarp over it and a dumpster sitting in your yard for weeks as you wait for the roofing contractor to come back and finish roofing your home.

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