Tackling Roof Snow Removal: How to Protect Your Home before and after a Snow Storm

By Annie Crawford 07-13-2022
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Enjoying the beauty of winter storms—but worried about the damage it can do to your roof? By taking a few steps before and after a storm, you can protect your home and roof from icy flurries and enjoy a cozy space inside.

Although roofing systems are designed to withstand bad weather, roof snow removal is critical. Leaving snow (or water in any form) on the roof can cause damage over time. For example, lovely, long icicles might indicate that ice dams are preventing water from properly running off your roof. As dammed-up water freezes and thaws over days or weeks, moisture can winnow its way under your shingles and lead to shingle damage, rot, and leaks.

Stop snow-related roof damage before it starts with these six tips to help you prepare for and recover from a snowstorm.

Before the Snow Flies

1. Clean Gutters

Get gunk and debris out of gutters and downspouts before snowstorms hit. Your gutters work hard in winter to flush moisture away from your roof. If they're clogged during a snowstorm, snow may become trapped and turn into ice after cycles of melting and refreezing. Ice-filled gutters can damage homes by ruining the gutters themselves, or they can harm the siding or roof as the weight of the ice tears down the gutters. Ice-filled gutters can also lead to ice dams.

2. Trim Trees

Cut back foliage or tree limbs that have the potential to damage your roof if they fall in a storm. Roof shingles are rugged and made to withstand severe weather, but a heavy impact from a limb or other debris can loosen a shingle's UV-blocking granules, or outright tear shingles off the roof. Hire a professional if you're not able to safely trim the trees yourself.

3. Ventilate Attic

To prevent ice dams, your roofing system should have exhaust ventilation at or near the ridgeline and intake ventilation at or near the overhang/soffitt area. If you're not sure about your home's setup, talk to your roofing contractor. Without roof ventilation to keep your attic and roof cool, hot air will accumulate in the highest point of your attic and melt any snow resting on the roof. Since the lower portions of the roof will be cooler without proper ventilation, that previously melted snow refreezes as it runs down the roof. Over time, a lack of ventilation can lead to water damage thanks to these ice dams. Beyond preventing roof damage, saving money on utility bills is an additional perk of a well-ventilated roof.

After a Snowstorm

1. Remove Snow

If you're able to do so without damaging shingles or hurting yourself, you can remove roof snow with a snow rake. Quick roof snow removal after a storm helps prevent ice dams and potential leaks before they start. A snow rake often has a long, lightweight aluminum handle with a wide, hoe-like head. If you know you have existing roof damage, avoid DIY roof snow removal and consider contacting a roofing professional to safely remove snow.

2. Assess for Damage

Visually inspect your roof for snowstorm-related roof damage. After safely removing the snow, can you see any damage to shingles or flashing? If you don't know what to look out for, call in a professional and consult with a qualified roofing contractor. Untreated roof damage only gets worse (and more expensive) over time, especially in snowy weather conditions. Review your roofs warranty and if roof damage requires professional maintenance and money is tight, many contractors offer roof financing options.

3. Watch for Ice Dams

Telltale signs including icicles, icy snow buildup at the roof overhang, and frozen or sagging gutters can all indicate the presence of roof-damaging ice dams. These dams are most likely to form when a roof isn't properly insulated or ventilated. The icy lip that water can create as it refreezes at the roofline creates opportunities to trap more and more snow and water—and allow that water to sneak into your roofing system. If you spot ice dams and are not able to remove them without causing roof or shingle damage, contact a roofing pro for help.

Ready to keep your roof snow-ready? If you need assistance, get trusted help from a local contractor certified by GAF.*

*Contractors enrolled in GAF certification programs are not employees or agents of GAF, and GAF does not control or otherwise supervise these independent businesses. Contractors may receive benefits, such as loyalty rewards points and discounts on marketing tools from GAF for participating in the program and offering GAF enhanced warranties, which require the use of a minimum amount of GAF products.

Annie Crawford is a freelance writer in Oakland, CA, covering travel, style, and home improvement. Find more of her work at annielcrawford.com.
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