Heavy snow loads can cause major issues in a number of ways. You can get snowed in, have to remove lots of snow from your vehicle, and most importantly, concern yourself with snow that builds up on your roof.
While there are sometimes good reasons to not remove the snow, you may have to worry about damages to your roof if you don’t. Of course, there are several methods you can consider, and many people look to use tools they already have, such as a shovel. But should you shovel snow off your roof?
Can Snow on Roof Cause Damage to Your House?
Whether or not snow damages your roof will depend on several things, such as the actual weather conditions and the roof’s pitch. If your roof has a steep pitch, much of the snow will slide off rather than sticking, which will keep the weight of snow buildup low. This is much less likely to cause damage, unless your roof is old and already weakened, in which case tiles can slide off as well.
A flat roof compromised by constant snow blasts with intermittent melts can suffer damage. Not only will the weight of the snow weaken the roof; the melting can find any small imperfection and lead to leaks and other damages.
In addition, the constant freezing and thawing of the roof tiles can cause them to expand and contract, which can lead to cracks and other damages. It’s important to consider the limitations of your roof, especially if you have a flat roof that is aging.
How Much is too Much Snow on the Roof?
There is a discrepancy here between opinions as to how much snow is too much for your roof. When you consult with most roofing companies regarding their warranties, you’ll find that they recommend or require that snow be removed from your roof before it reaches a depth of two feet in order for the warranty to not be voided.
However, a number of snow removal companies, depending on your location, often recommend keeping snow loads under six inches, as larger loads can lead to ice dams when the snow starts to melt, causing the weight on your roof to increase.
While it may be more convenient to wait, there can also be trouble with where you’ll put such a large buildup of snow if you let it get close to two feet. Sticking with a limit of six inches is more manageable and less likely to cause damage to your roof.
Should You Use a Shovel to Remove Snow off Your Roof?
When it comes to removing the snow, the most common question asked is, should you use a shovel to remove snow off your roof?
There is more than one answer to this. If you have a slanted roof of any pitch, it’s not a good option due to the dangers of the process. However, if you have experience climbing on roofs and have a flat roof, shoveling the snow from your roof might be the best and most effective method.
You’ll have to get to your roof using a ladder, and you need to take precautions against slipping, including wearing shoes or boots that will give you proper traction on all surfaces, including ice and snow. Before you get on the roof, use a flat-ended shovel to remove at least a three-foot radius of snow, giving you a clear space to step onto the roof.
On the roof, stay at least three feet from the edge so that, should you slip, you are much less likely to fall off the roof. It will minimize any injury you might have. You’ll want to watch your step and work slowly and carefully so that you don’t cause unnecessary damage or hurt yourself.
The Dangers of Using a Shovel to Remove Snow from a Roof
Before using a shovel to remove snow from a roof, you should consider the danger involved. While it can be done on a flat roof, it’s still not the safest option, just as it is widely discouraged with a pitched roof.
First of all, you can easily hit a shingle or roof tile the wrong way with the shovel, removing granules that keep the integrity of the shingle or even knocking the shingle loose. In addition, there is a real chance you could push the snow under the shingles rather than off them.
Another issue is getting to the roof with your shovel. Unless you have an extension – which makes the damage described above more likely – you have to climb a ladder in a wet and frozen environment, with only one hand to secure yourself. This is not a safe option.
Can I Climb on Top of My Roof and Shovel Downwards?
Because climbing the ladder is dangerous to start with, you should avoid the idea of shoveling snow from your roof. In addition, clearing the area to step onto the roof while remaining on the ladder can lead to falling.
Even worse, when it’s time to come down, any additional snow that has fallen compromises the ladder. Any snow compacted in your shoe tread while working on the roof removes traction and makes it very easy to slip and fall.
There are far safer ways to remove snow from your roof available.
What’s the Safest Way to Remove Snow from Your Roof?
Use a Snow Roof Rake
A snow roof rake is made specifically to remove the snow from your roof without ever leaving the ground. They have a specific head design that reduces the risk of damaging or knocking off shingles, and snow roof rakes have extensions that let you reach long range from the ground across both flat and pitched roofs.
While they may not reach every square foot of your roof, they greatly reduce the weight load of snow, leading to far less chance of weakened and damaged roofing.
Roof rakes are easily affordable, and even if you don’t get a long extension in order to save money, you’ll still be able to remove snow and ice from the overhang, which is the most important area to maintain the integrity of the roofing in general.
If you’ve never heard of Roof Melt, you should look into it. These tablets contain a high content of calcium chloride, which is an agent that releases heat when mixing with water. Therefore, it can very effectively melt ice.
In order to make use of these, you simply need to throw them onto your roof and wait. As they release the heat, some of the snow on your roof will melt and begin to run off. These tablets are very effective, especially in temperatures at or above 20 degrees Fahrenheit (-7 degrees Celsius). These tablets are easy and safe to use and offer an inexpensive solution that keeps your roof and your home intact.
Use a Rope!
Another alternative to shoveling snow from your roof that may not cost you a penny is to use a rope. This method takes some extra work, but it is much safer, keeping you grounded for the most part and keeping you at a distance from the avalanche of snow being removed.
To remove small areas of snow at a time, hold onto both ends of the rope and toss the midsection onto the roof, around a pile of snow. Then, simply pull both ends of the rope, standing back from the edge of the roof, so that the snow is pulled down. You can repeat this as needed to remove as much snow as possible without risk of any damage to your roof.
How to Prevent Snow and Ice Buildup on Your Roof?
If you want to prevent snow and ice from building up on your roof, one option is to install roof heating cables. Much like heat that is trapped in the attic beneath the roof and layers of snow in a newer house or a house with a newer roof, roof heating cables provide heat through an electrical current that warms the snow until it starts to melt.
Some cables are simply used on top of the snow, thrown over a roof of whatever size you need and plugged into a typical 120v electric receptacle. Others are created to clip onto your roof, ready to energize when the snow begins to fall.
Either way, because you have cost-effective options, most of these cables come in various lengths to accommodate your needs.
Much like Roof Melt tablets, de-icer pellets contain sodium chloride. Spreading these pellets over your roof prior to a freeze that is going to dump snow on your roof will help prevent the buildup of snow. These pellets work at up to -40 degrees, activated by the snow (frozen water), which causes them to release heat and keep the snow melting even as it falls.
Can You Use a Snow Blower on a Roof?
Not only do most snow blowers state in their instructions that they shouldn’t be used on rooftops; it’s incredibly unsafe. They can cause extensive damage, melting areas of your roof with their heat, rip your shingles off, and getting it up and on the roof is completely dangerous in inclement weather conditions. The added weight along with snow and iec can cause your roof to collapse.
Avoid using a snow blower on your roof at all times!
Should you shovel snow off your roof? It’s not recommended. If you feel uncomfortable with one of the safer measures of snow removal mentioned above give it a try, call a professional to assist you with removing the snow from your roof.
Read some of my related snow clearing articles:
- 10 Best Lawn Mower Snow Blower Combo
- Can You Blow Snow with a Leaf Blower?
- 10 Best Riding Lawn Mower Snow Plow Attachments
- What are Snow Melting Mats and Do They Work?
- How Much Snow Can a Deck Hold?
- How to Clear Snow off Roof with a Rope (Step-by-Step)
Jamie is the founder of The Backyard Pros. When he was 15 years old he started working at a garden centre helping people buy plants, gardening products, and lawn care products. He has real estate experience and he is a home owner. Jamie loves backyard projects, refinishing furniture, and enjoys sharing his knowledge online.