How to (Safely) Shovel Snow Off a Roof

If you live in an area where it snows every winter, you’re probably used to it by now. But no matter how experienced you are with snow, there is one aspect of snow removal that most people aren’t ready for: your roof. If you have ever shoveled snow, you know that it can be very heavy; it’s easy to lift a load of heavy wet snow, and then look at your roof and imagine how it trembles under the weight of the load. The obvious solution is to grab a shovel and go up to the roof to clear it, but this can be very dangerous . So how do you safely clear snow off your roof so you can sleep peacefully and not worry about collapse?

When to worry about roof snow

First things first: do you really need to worry about snow on your roof? Sure, snow is heavy stuff—three feet of fresh snow or one foot of packed snow weighs about 30 pounds —but you should remember that most building codes require snow loads, and your roof was probably designed to support snow load greater than this. what your roof will experience. After all, if you’ve ever walked on a roof without causing structural damage, your roof has supported its own weight, which is likely much more than a load of snow can weigh.

Of course, depending on the quality and age of your roof, excessive snow load can be a concern. There are several signs that your roof is buckling under the weight of snow:

  • Water stains on the ceiling . Packed snow on a roof can lead to ice dams , which can cause the melt that normally drips off the roof to rise up and seep into your home.
  • Cracks in the walls. If the roof sags under snow load, you will likely see new cracks in the drywall underneath.
  • Door sticking. If your roof’s load-bearing beams begin to warp from excessive snow load, you may notice that doors that don’t normally stick or jam suddenly warp because your home’s structure is stressed under the weight.

With all that said, if you decide you need to deal with snow on your roof, how can you do it without killing or injuring yourself?

How to safely clear a roof

If you’re worried about snow load on your roof, here’s how to deal with it without hurting yourself:

  • Plan ahead. The best way to survive digging a roof is to never dig it with a shovel at all. Adding an anti-icing cable to your gutters or the edges of your roof system can help prevent ice dams and help the snow on your roof melt and slide off on its own. If you know you’re going to be replacing your roof in the near future, consider the price of a roof heating system that will let you melt the snow at the touch of a button.
  • Get a snow rake. If you have a pitched roof, climbing on it is never a good idea, and in ice it’s just awful. Instead, buy a snow rake. These are retractable tools that you use while safely on the ground. Scrape the snow off the roof , starting at the edges . Do not attempt to scrape down to the roof surface because you may damage the roof while doing so. Just take off most of that weight and be careful not to let a ton of snow fall on you. This refers to shoveling flat roofs – don’t scrape all the way out, just take off the bulk of it.
  • Use the friend system . Don’t go up to the roof alone in the snow. The surface is slippery and you are far from the ground, so find someone who can get up there with you. If you can, get a rooftop harness and learn how to use it. If you lose your balance shaking all that snow off the roof, you’ll be very glad you did.
  • Hire a professional. You can hire contractors to clear snow from your roof – many even offer annual contracts, so every time it snows heavily they will send a team to clear your roof. It costs around $300 on average, although there are many options depending on where you live and what type of roof we’re talking about.

Chances are your roof will handle all that snow just fine. But if you’re worried about it, shoveling snow off your roof can be a good idea if you plan ahead and put safety first.


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