The snow and ice in the winter season can be beautiful to look at, but it has a dangerous side as well. Too much ice and snow can be damaging to your roof. To be safe, it's a good idea to be informed about the type of damage the winter weather can do to your roof and how to prevent or fix any problems that the harsh weather might cause. Take a look at some common dangers the snow and ice may pose to your roof this winter and some ways that you can prevent damage.
Heavy Snow Load
After a large snowfall, your walkway isn't the only thing covered with snow. Your roof is covered as well, and the snow may weigh more than you think. When rain falls on your roof, the majority of the water just rolls off, but the snow will build up instead, and if the buildup becomes too heavy, it can cause severe damage to your roof.
Too much snow can cause sagging ridgelines, drooping ceilings, and water leaks. Eventually, your roof could collapse, or the snow blocking the chimneys and roof vents could lead to carbon monoxide poisoning. If you notice signs like jammed doors, water on the interior walls and ceilings, or creaking sounds coming from the roof, it's a sign that you've already waited too long to clear the snow from your roof. If you have a one-story home, you may be able to clear the snow from the roof by using a long-handled aluminum rake to sweep the snow off of your roof. However, if you have a two-story home or higher, it's best to let a professional clear the snow and avoid the risk of injury to yourself.
Ice is another potential hazard of the winter season. If your gutters or downspouts become clogged or backed up with water or snow, this can freeze into ice, which can then cause damage to your gutters. Like snow on your roof, ice in your gutters may be too heavy, and may weigh down your gutters, causing the metal to dent or pull out of place. Ice could even pull your gutters down, possibly taking shingles from your roof along with it.
There are a few ways that you can prevent ice from accumulating in your gutters. You could install a gutter shield that will prevent leaves and debris from clogging up your gutters – this will help keep your gutters and drains flowing freely and help eliminate the possibility of standing water that can freeze in your gutters. Or you can install inexpensive heating strips in your gutters that will melt snow and prevent ice from forming.
Ice dams are particularly dangerous, as they can combine the problems of ice at the edge of the roof and snow build-up in the middle of the roof. An ice dam usually occurs when the heat coming from the attic warms up the bottom layer of snow and causes it to melt. The melted snow will slide to the eaves of the roof, refreezing along the way as ice. The eaves, located away from the roof, tend not to be warm, so the ice will stay there until the temperature drops low enough to melt the ice. As the ice builds up, it forms a dam, so newly fallen snow can't slide off of the roof and will simply build up instead.
Keeping the gutters clear and raking snow off the roof shortly after a storm are two things that can help prevent ice dams from forming. It can also help to make sure that the attic is well-insulated so that warm air can't melt snow that falls in the center of the roof. If an ice dam occurs anyway, you can use calcium chloride to melt a trough in the ice, allowing the snow and water to roll off of the roof. Place the calcium chloride in an old pair of nylon pantyhose, and place it in the area where you want the trough. Don't use rock salt – this will melt the ice, but it can also damage your roofing materials and any plants that are growing close to the house as it drips down.
Another option is to chip the ice off with a blunt tool. Axes and other sharp tools are likely to damage your roof, so don't use them. Even with a blunt tool, you can damage or remove shingles while removing ice this way, so it's best to hire a roofing professional to handle the job for you.
Making the effort to protect your roof from the winter weather will pay off. You'll be able to minimize your costs for roof installation and repair services.