The first snowfall of the year can be magical, however, it can also cause worry as you begin to ensure your home is safe. While removing snow from the ground can be relatively easy, removing snow from your roof can cause some frustration.
After years of experimenting with different tools and techniques, I’ve found the best way to remove snow from your roof is by using an extendable snow rake. If you don’t feel comfortable removing snow from your roof then you’re best calling in the experts to do it for you. However, there’s a lot to learn about removing snow and preventing snow build-up from your roofs and gutters. The benefits of implementing the correct techniques are no doubt hugely beneficial in ensuring your home’s safety and peace of mind in the winter months.
When To Remove Snow From Your Roof
Every house is different, but as a general rule of thumb, I’d recommend removing the snow from your roof if there are more than six inches.
Over time you will begin to know what’s right for your house and where snow tends to build up the most. Aside from the general sound structure of the roof, the most concerning factor as to when to remove the snow is based on its pitch. Snow on flat or shallow-pitched roofs is likely to cause more damage than it would on a standard or high pitched roof.
A high pitched roof is able to use gravity for the snow to fall over time. However, flat and low pitched roofs will struggle to naturally remove the snow. Even if the snow melts, the water will remain. This can prove even more dangerous in freezing conditions as it turns to ice – adding even more weight to your roof. Unsurprisingly then another factor you should consider is the weight of the snow. Much like using a snowblower on the ground, moving light and fluffy snow is easier than moving heavy, wet snow.
Even if both snowfalls were six inches, the density of the wet snow makes it heavier and is, therefore, going to damage your roof at a quicker rate than the light snow. You can sometimes tell whether the excess weight of the snow is causing your roof to bow based on how difficult it is to open the windows and doors on the floor closest to your roof (i.e. in a two-story house, the second floor).
However, this comes with somewhat of a technique as cold temperatures and snow blasts can make external windows difficult to open. If your windows or doors feel as though they are being pushed down then this is a clear sign that the roof is struggling and that snow should be removed as soon as possible.
The Benefits Of Removing Snow From Your Roof
The majority of well-maintained roofs are built to withstand around 24 inches of snowfall. However, there are a number of varying factors that make this number difficult to follow. These include; the density of the snow, shape of your roof, and the roof’s general structural integrity. Removing the snow from your roof is always a good decision provided it is safe to do so.
If at any point you feel that the situation is unsafe, call a local professional who can remove the snow for you for a fee ($100 – $500 depending on the area and the size of the roof). A small expense considering the replacement of the roof alone (ignoring the cleanup job of removing all the snow from inside your home and the major remodeling that goes with it) would cost anything from $8,000 to $16,000.
Damage to your home can still be caused by too much snow on your roof even if the roof doesn’t cave in. This includes the warping of internal doors, warping, and damage to the external window and door frames and cracks in the drywall. All of these will cost thousands of dollars (and a headache or two) to fix.
The Best Tools For Removing Snow From Your Roof
Without a doubt, the best tool for removing snow from your roof is a long-handled snow rake. This snow rake has two poles that allow it to extend to a length of around 15ft.
The MinnSnowta is described as a snow razer (it’s actually more like a snow roller) and extends to 24ft. These snow rakes perform better with light / fluffy snow. However, they can work with wet / heavy snow in smaller capacities. The greatest benefit is that they don’t require you to climb a ladder – which in freezing and potentially icy conditions is often a terrible idea (I speak from experience)
Tips For Removing Snow From Your Roof Safely
Here are a few hints and tips that I’ve found work best in ensuring you safely and effectively remove snow from your roof:
- Work from the roof overhands up towards the peak of the roof
- Don’t attempt to clear more than 1ft of snow with one sweep of a snow rake. The weight of the snow will make it hard to move and potentially damage your snow rake (and your back)
- Avoid using high powered machines to remove snow from your roof. These will just damage your roof.
- Don’t build up a pile of snow on your roof to push off, instead work in strips pushing all the snow off in 1ft increments. Creating a pile is likely to cause excess weight in one spot which could lead to a hole in the roof or the roof collapsing entirely.
- Look to anticipate where the snow will fall onto the ground to ensure you don’t hit anyone or anything – such as a car or truck.
- Don’t attempt to remove all the snow from your roof, just enough of the excess to ensure that no damage is caused.
How To Remove Snow & Ice From Your Gutters
You may notice that snow and ice are causing your gutters to sag. If this is the case then the snow/ice needs to be removed to prevent any further damage. Ensuring your gutters are free from debris in the fall can help to increase the flow of melting snow and ice and minimize the risk of your gutters becoming blocked and damaged as a result.
Gutters are essential in maintaining the integrity of your roof as well as minimising the impact of water damage to your walls. If you find that your gutters are showing signs of wear from the snow/ice then I suggest sprinkling some rock salt on the area. This will slowly melt the ice and allow it to drain naturally.
For a more immediate solution, I suggest spraying the ice/snow with warm water. I’ve found spraying the area and only using warm water rather than hot water works best as it helps to prevent the material of the gutter going into thermal shock or having to deal with a sudden surge in water as the ice/snow melts.
How To Prevent Snow & Ice From Forming On Your Roof & In Your Gutters
The best long term solution I have found for minimizing the build-up of snow and ice on your roof an in your gutters is the installation of heat cables.
These are not as expensive or as complicated as you may first think. My personal favorites are:
- Heat Tape Pro which are available in lengths of between 6ft and 150ft and comes with a 5-year warranty.
- Frost King which are available in lengths of between 30ft and 200ft.
The heat tape calculator will help you to determine the right length of cable for your home.
Heating cables help the slow naturally slide off your roof and help to prevent build up in your gutters. The majority use 5 watts per foot and therefore can add to the electric bill (I’ve found using them with a thermostatic plug helps minimize this). The majority of cables are suitable for all roof materials but as always I’d suggest checking the instructions and reviews before proceeding to purchase and install.
There are also heated cables which are suitable for pipes. My personal favorite is Easy Heat as they come with a built-in thermostat allowing the cables to activate once a certain temperature has been reached.