Will your Roof Withstand the Winter Snows?

Roof Withstand the Winter SnowsIn regions where the temperatures dip into freezing for many winter months, snow and ice can build up on a roof in the winter in Elgin, Illinois and nearby towns. That build-up can add a tremendous amount of extra weight to the structure of your roof and, in some cases, cause it to collapse.

The risk of a roof collapsing under snow depends on a few factors:

  1. The weather conditions – combinations of snow, sleet and ice make things worse and a heavy snowfall adds extra weight
  2. The pitch of the roof – with flat and low-pitched roofs being the most likely to collapse because the snow and ice doesn’t have anywhere to go
  3. The condition of the roof – if the supporting beams are compromised from wear, termites or other damaging factors, the roof is more likely to collapse

Sometimes, a visual inspection of your roof is not enough to accurately determine the condition but it’s a good start. Here is what you need to consider this winter.

Home Insurance May Cover a Roof Collapse – but it May Not

The typical homeowner’s insurance plan covers damage caused by severe winter storms and blizzards – including roofs collapsing under the weight of snow and ice – but not all coverage is equal. In the case of a roof collapse, the insurer may look at variables that you could have prevented, such as taking proper care of your roof prior to the collapse.

Even if your home insurance does pay, you’ll still have to pay the deductible and manage the situation of where to live, how to keep your valuable safe with the roof of your home open to the elements, where to house your pets, and more. As they say, ‘an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure’ and so we move on to how to prevent roof collapses.

Maintaining and Insulating your Roof is Essential

Regular home maintenance can prevent problems and keep them from occurring. Inspect your roof once a year for signs of deterioration and wear. Cracks in the beams, termite damage, and other factors can affect whether those beams are sturdy enough to hold the weight of a winter snowstorm.

Clearing your gutters before they freeze helps the melting runoff flow freely and prevent ice dams from forming. Ice dams can send water into your home through the ceilings and walls – where water does not belong.

Properly insulating your attic also helps reduce the risk of snow and ice from causing a collapse. Simply stated, a properly insulated roof reduces heat loss from the inside, but it also allows the build up on your roof to melt as conditions warm up. When heat escapes a poorly insulated roof, it can cause the snow to melt too quickly and freeze again.

How to Remove Snow Safely from your Roof

While the typical home roof is designed to withstand a great deal, a heavy load of snow that freezes, melts some and re-freezes is not ideal. The safe removal of snow from your roof requires careful attention because the conditions are slippery and getting on the roof to shovel snow off is also not recommended.

Remember that a pitched roof is designed to allow water, snow, and other weather-related particulates to slide off the roof. Removing the barriers to that is key but you have to position yourself such that you don’t get buried if the build-up begins to slide off all at once.

  1. Start at the lower edges of your roof, removing icicles and any ice that is preventing the snow from sliding off.

  2. Using a snow rake is useful for clearing the snow in rows without causing damage to the shingles beneath.

  3. Approach the roof in stages – rake in sections starting at the lower edge and sides to get the snow build-up loosened and it may slide off

Andrew MacDonald is skilled infrared home inspector who has been inspecting the roofs of in Hoffman Estates, Palatine, Schaumburg, St. Charles and the surrounding towns for years. If you need to know whether your roof is strong enough to stand up to winter snow, fill in our online form and request an infrared home inspection today.

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