While snow may look beautiful on top of your roof, it’s a liability.

Throughout the winter, snow can pile up by the ton (literally), and that can be a massive burden for your roof. What’s more, that snow can slide off and cause catastrophic damage to your property. So, it’s wise to keep tabs on the snow on your roof. When it accumulates, it’s best to clear it off so that you can rest assured your property and passersby are protected.

That’s especially true here in Iowa, where we get an average of nearly three feet of snowfall per year. January marks the middle of our snowiest months, so now is the time to be conscious of the dangers of snow on your roof. Here are a couple news stories that may help to convince you to keep your roof free from snow.

Roof Collapses in Idaho

In Weiser, Idaho, snow came down like a wall last January. Residents were hit with several storms throughout the winter, and inches of snow turned into feet. Multiple buildings ended up collapsing under the weight. The weight of winter struck Ridley’s Family Market, collapsing one of the few grocery stores in the area, and the only grocery store in Ridley. Residents were left without easy access to groceries for weeks on end.

That wasn’t the only collapse in town during Idaho’s fateful January storms. Residential buildings saw just as much snow as their commercial counterparts. As The Washington Post points out in their article, ‘A lot of scared people’: Relentless snow collapses hundreds of Idaho roofs, devastates rural county, the snow caused at least two catastrophes for residents in Washington County, Idaho. The Post notes that a “woman and her dog were home when their roof came down one evening. Fortunately the woman was able to ‘leap underneath the bed and wait until the noise stopped.’ […] Neither woman nor dog were hurt.” However, other residents weren’t as fortunate. The article continues to describe one of the most tragic events from last winter:

“[A woman in Deary, Idaho] stepped out onto her porch last week at the exact moment when the snow and ice on its roof became too much for it. The woman was found by a family member, Latah County Sheriff Richie Skiles told KLEW TV. She had not been able to ‘get out from under the weight,’ he said. ‘It was very tragic.’”

Idaho’s terrible storms also damaged onion processing facilities throughout the region, reducing onion processing output by 25 percent. Snowfall topped out at over two feet of accumulation, and all that moisture meant tons upon tons of unexpected weight for Idahoans.

Freezing Snow in Bend, Oregon

The Bulletin brings us another instance of a disastrous snow and ice storm that struck Bend, Oregon last January. In their article, Disaster creates opportunity for snow and ice contractors, we learn about the true expense of heavy snow, as well as the true value of snow and ice removal. The article surrounds the story of a woman, Cricket Kadoch, who was in desperate need of help when snow and ice accumulated on her home. As the article mentions, “[she] paid an out-of-state contractor $2,850 for six hours of work removing snow and ice from the roof of her southwest Bend home, and she was happy to do it.” The aggregate of snow and ice collected on her rooftop to the point that ice dams formed on her home; Kadoch took action when she noticed that water was entering her home due to ice dams. These dams pool water, which can seep into the roof and walls of a home or building.

The article also notes another common catastrophe that can occur when the snow piles up: improper snow removal. There’s a right way and a wrong way to get snow and ice off your roof. Be wary of utilizing chemicals to remove snow, and avoid the temptation to get out a sledgehammer or ice pick to chip away ice off your roof. Don’t use magnesium de-icers, since they can discolor your roof and rust your gutters. And don’t use sharp tools to rid your roof of ice — you’ll probably damage the surface of your roof, and that can leave you with repairs once everything melts. So, what can you do to stay on top of the snow that’s piling on your roof this winter?

What You Can Do

Snow tends to weigh about 20 pounds per cubic foot — that may not sound like a lot, but when feet of snow start stacking up on your roof, the weight of your roof can soar to several tons. So, when you have snow accumulation that tops out a foot, you can imagine putting a couple of bowling balls on every square foot of your roof — Yikes! On top of that, wet snow can exceed that 20-pound number, and that can be especially alarming for building owners who have flat roofs. Fortunately it’s easy to be proactive about snow accumulation.

Clear That Snow

The first, and easiest step that you can take to preserve the integrity of your building is to just keep that heavy snow off. If you’re planning on removing snow yourself, be extremely cautious. Snow can slip off of a sloped roof at a moment’s notice, and snow can just as easily collapse a flat roof. If you think there may be any danger to clearing snow from your roof, hire a professional company to get rid of all that weight. If you do go DIY, be wary that you don’t want to lose your ladder (don’t let snow knock it over), work with a partner (in case something happens), and keep an eye where the snow goes (throw snow off your roof safely!).

Get Insured

Do you have adequate insurance for your building? Check with your insurance provider to learn about their coverage for winter storms. In some cases, snow and ice removal may be completely or partially covered. In other cases, your roof won’t have any insurance protection at all. If you’re concerned about your roof, it’s worth the investment to insure against heavy, damaging snowfall.

Check Your Building’s Structural Integrity

Next, be sure that your building can handle snow in the first place. If you have poor structural support for your roof, then it’s a ticking time bomb for the next perfect storm. Hire an engineer to analyze the integrity of the structure of your building. If it’s too weak to stay upright during a 50-year or 100-year storm, then you’d better renovate to keep from a disaster. If you do need to implement an upgrade, and you live here in the Des Moines area, you can count on Sage Construction to reinforce your building. We specialize in demolitions and renovations, and we can implement metal framing that’s perfectly suited to handle heavy loads. Learn more about our metal framing services, and get started with a bid. If you have any questions about our services, don’t hesitate to get in touch.

We sincerely hope that you stay safe this winter. Don’t forget, we’re always here to help build and renovate buildings that withstand the worst forces of Mother Nature.