Why and How to Remove Snow from Your House Roof

Winter is never care free if you live in the northern United States. Every snowstorm brings new dangers. With iced roads and sidewalks, power outages, higher gas bills, frost bite and shoveling snowdrifts, it’s no wonder most of us wish we could live in sunny-all-the-time Florida.

To make matters worse, not all dangers are obvious. Less conspicuous are the dangers of snow buildup on your house roof. After a snowstorm in December of 2007, many residents in the upper Midwest found six to eight inches-a foot in some cases-of snow above their awnings.

Snow is heavy, especially when wet, as it was this winter. A weakly supported roof can cave quickly under the immense weight of snow buildup, flooding your kitchen or living room with cold, melting slush, ruining antiques and family photos, not to mention your home. Snow related insurance claims (both cave-ins and leakages) cost millions of dollars and raise insurance premiums for other home owners. Figuring out how to remove snow off your couch becomes a small concern when faced with the stress of replacing a roof or priceless heirlooms. And to have a roof come down over your head, or that of your family, can be deadly.

Even if a snowy roof does not cave-in, snow can still melt, creating a vexing situation. Sunny skies and heat from your home can warm snow on your roof, causing ice damming, sliding, and falling snow. These things lead to water intrusion, which will damage the interior of your home if gone unchecked. When snow melts, water often trickles through cracks in your roof. Water damage can cause ceilings, infrastructure, and roofs to warp or rot. The ugly brown stains throughout your home are a tell-tale sign of water damage, and an immediate signal that you must remove snow from your roof.

In most cases it is no more possible to build a new roof on an old house than it is to stop the snow from falling during winter. There are many architectural remedies for preventing water damage and roof cave-ins, but for owners of older homes, the task of preventing damage comes down to snow removal.

Beware, removing snow from roofs can be a very dangerous task. Never go up to your roof without someone to help you, and always take safety into consideration first. If your roof is tall and steeply angled, let a professional handle the removal or simply let the snow stay instead of risking bodily injury. No amount of damage to your home is worth falling off your roof and spending the winter in the hospital.

The safest way to clean snow from your roof is with a snow rake-a long-pole with a flat piece of aluminum attached to the end. A snow rake is ideal for hooking snow and pulling it from the roof. You can build your own by welding a long pole-shaft to a flat piece of aluminum at a ninety degree angle, but for the less adept person, one can be bought on-line or at a local hardware store.

Purchase a rake that is rust proof, aluminum, lightweight. Some rakes stretch over twenty feet long, with a blade of 7 inches high by 24 inches wide, but a sixteen foot long shaft can be just as handy. Purchase an angled pole when possible, allowing you more maneuverability between tight spaces, such as between your house and a neighbor’s home, or a line of shrubs. You can often find a rake which is assembled in sections so you can easily dismantle it when not in use.

Raking snow from your roof is very exhausting work but can be made easier by following a few simple steps. Use a layering method (short strokes) when raking, pulling the first six inches to a foot of snow off. Gradually work your way back from the roof ledge to the center. Don’t allow the rake end to come off the roof when pulling the snow over the ledge. By keeping the rake on the roof, you save time and effort as you work.

To protect shingles, don’t use the blade to break up the ice by dropping it against the roof. Without snow cover, ice will melt and flow into the gutter. You don’t have to remove every flake of snow, just enough to alleviate the pressure and weight of snow on your roof.

Use a ladder when necessary, to pull snow from hard to reach places, but only with the help of a friend or neighbor. Ladders are unsturdy; you should never climb one without someone below you holding it still. Safety is, and should always be, your first priority. Don’t take any unneeded chances with snow removal. It’s simply not worth it.

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