How to Remove Snow off Your Roof with Correct Equipment

How to remove snow off your roof with correct equipment is very important to understand before you decide to go be a hero. In many areas of the country, snow buildup on rooftops is a very serious concern and can be very dangerous in several ways.

Be careful because it can cause some serious health issues to flair up that you didn’t even know existed if you are not in good enough condition cardiovascular wise just to name one. You could also fall off the roof. You could do some severe damage to the roof materials. You could even hurt someone below you by either falling on them or dumping snow on them. But if you do feel the need to remove snow yourself you want to be as secure-footed as possible. You may want to think about getting something to reduce the chance of slipping to strap on to the bottoms your shoes or boots, here are some examples.

It’s amazing how many roofs we are asked to go repair or replace each spring with regards to damage to roofs caused by incorrect snow removal. We also get our fair share of siding, soffit and fascia repair from the ice building up behind these areas and causing damage.

Most of the time snow removal from roofs is not necessary.

I what to mention one item here real quick and this will be discussed in a later blog. Be careful of any roofing heat tape that may be installed on the roof. Make sure this heat tape is unplugged at the electrical source first. Lastly, leave at least an inch of snow over the roofing heat tape so you do not damage it. Again please refer to my “roofing heat tape concerns” blog for more information. Ok, so back to the big “if.” If you feel that it is necessary to remove some snow off your roof, you must be careful about what you are doing. Snow can be heavy and to make matters worse, if there is a warming in temperature while there is a lot of snow accumulation on your roof and it begins to rain, the rain water can be absorbed by the snow and can compound the snow weight very quickly.

how to remove snow off your roof with correct equipmentContact your City Department of Building and Planning to find out what the snow load maximum is in your area. Here is an example of a website in Spokane, WA. containing snow load information.

A word of caution however, there is no guarantee about what is a safe snow load on your rooftop or when your home could begin to sustain structural problems due to too much snow build up. Sometimes, but not always, one of the indicators that there is too much snow on your roof is when some interior doors stick when shutting when they normally do not. This could mean that the house structure is under too much load stress.

With the basic understanding of knowing the snow load maximum for your roof in your geographic area you should have a few tools to help you for roof snow removal should you ever feel that you need to do this. One thing to remember about removing snow from your roof is that the snow is not disappearing when you send it off the roof, it’s going down on the ground and you can end up with a massive amount of snow on the ground.

Once you have removed the snow from the roof, you now potentially need to remove it from the walkways where it is now! If you are looking for a simple lightweight electric snow thrower check a few of these out.  For super duty heavyweight ground snow removal check these gas powered Snow Throwers out. And speaking of snow throwers (and yes, I know,  some people call them snow blowers, but their really not.) Every year your gas powered snow thrower sits for about 10 months with gas in the tank that will go bad. If you don’t drain all the gas from the carburetor, you may think about adding some gas stabilizer in the gas tank, shake the machine around to mix it up, then start the engine and let it run for a few minutes to get this gas stabilizer well enough into the carburetor. This will typically keep the gas in the tank and fuel lines good till next season.

So is it really necessary to remove snow from your roof?
Many people prematurely remove snow from their roofs when there is minimal snow cover and cause roofing shingle material damage. One area of importance of potential snow removal on your house are the eaves. When snow accumulates on your roof, it is typically also going to eventually start melting at the area against your roof under the layer of snow.  This occurs from heat loss through your attic because of poor insulation or simply, heat loss to the outside from your windows or doors. Once this heat gets out of your house it travels up and under the soffit area, maybe through a soffit vent and warming the underside of the attic roof sheeting. The snow melts and water finds its way under your roofing or siding walls. Actual water can seep under your roofing, under the felt paper and onto the wood sheeting. The water drips down onto your insulation just inside the outside wall area. This water puddles on top of the sheet rock (or whatever your ceiling is made out of), then the water finds its way to the nearest weakest spot on your ceiling and begins the “drip” or pour of water into your home.

If you are having problems with ice damming up at the eaves, check a few of these options out. Heat cables may be the answer but not always the solution. Follow the instructions on the package to get the most effectiveness from the heat cables. You can also run these heat cables in your gutters and also run the cables down the downspout and back up. Just remember that however much cable you think you need, you can times that by 2 or 3. Your goal is to help the roof melting snow water to have a way to run off and not build up water and ice at the eaves making a “mini-glacier.” We’ve all seen it, the “brown-icicle” (looking like a Stalactite) which is hanging off a roof eave. This is a sign that ice dam water backup could be happening on your home.”The cause”, snow melting over heated area of roofing deck, travels down to the unheated eave area, water freezes, creates a small “hump” of ice, water continues to run down, hits hump of ice, starts to build up behind this ice hump higher creating a dam like reservoir. If this has happened, it is important to carefully create an opening for water to drain out.Carefully chisel out, hammer out, use a baseball bat (lightly), but don’t damage your roof. You are attempting to create a relief channel in the ice for water to run out to stop the build up of water. Caution though, if you are pounding on the eave area of your home, you can knock down, icicles and these are like spear heads and can cause serious injury to someone below you.  You could also dislodge the entire gutter system and that could even pull you down.

You simply need to create an opening for water to drain.

Create this opening every five feet or so along the eaves but be careful of your ladder slipping or your shoes slipping on the ladder rungs. You’ve got to keep the water from building up anywhere at the eaves. Again, you may consider heat cables. Remember something else of importance. The flatter, the pitch the roof is, the less likely snow will slide off by itself and this means more accumulation of water and snow.

So what should you do if you feel you need to remove some of the snow off your roof?
There are many tools you can use to remove snow off your roof or off the eaves. Aluminum roof snow rakes, snow cutter wire, plastic shovels, push brooms to name a few. Snow rakes are convenient and lightweight. Just make sure you get a longer one than you think you need. You’ll see why after your first use. Here are some examples of  snow rakes. Just remember to leave a few inches of snow on the roof so that you are not digging down to the roof shingle material and damaging it. We see more roof and valley damage done by snow removal than anything else.

Most important of all…

Always look up and around for electrical wires, yes, each year many people get electrocuted while attempting to remove snow from their roofs. Most of the time it is more important to remove just the first three or four feet of snow up the roof pitch from the eave edge so water does not start to accumulate than getting up onto your roof and removing snow from all areas. This is what the snow rake is for. Think about the amount of weight you are adding to the weight of the roof to get up there and shovel.

People have caused many “cave-ins” getting up on their roofs or hiring someone to do it. Be careful of the Liability having “your friends and neighbors” helping! Did you just hire several people to get up on your roof adding the weight per square foot weight to the snow load? I’ve seen people up on roofs with their snow throwers! If they can add that much weight to the roof, they probably never needed to get up there in the first place! Aluminum Patio Covers or awnings are another concern. These covers can’t take nearly as much snow load.

Never get up on a patio roof.
Only use some sort of snow rake to pull the snow off but that also means that you or someone is on a ladder at the eave edge pulling snow towards you which is also dangerous. Remember safety must be practiced at all times. I would hope that you would rather have some damage to your home verses you slipping and then sliding off your roof and hurting yourself. Consult an experts opinion about your roof or patio first and make sure if someone gets up on your roof that they have the proper licensing, L & I and insurance. Plan in advance before winter.