Services | Snow / Ice Removal

You may have heard of a lot of people having snow and ice removed from their roofs and wondered “why?”. In the very same weather conditions, one roof may have problems while another is perfectly fine. In order to give you a better understanding on when and why snow or ice needs to be removed from a roof, first we must clarify that snow and ice are two separate sources of two separate problems.

Snow
Snow does not usually cause any problems with the roofing system’s integrity. Any leaks that occur, or damage to the roof system itself, are usually caused by ice. The only dangers with snow is the additional weight on your roof and the danger of large accumulations of snow falling from the roof onto people or objects below. Modern roofs are engineered to handle our usual snow loads. In most winters, if you have a home that meets our building code, you should not have to worry about removing the snow. If, however, you know there will be a record snowfall and you have an older home not built to the current standards, or if you have snow accumulating on your roof because of drifts, there may be a cause for concern. Typically speaking, you shouldn’t have to shovel your roof if there is less than 2 feet of accumulated snow. However, if there have been frequent freeze and thaw cycles or a lot of mixed snow and rain, it may cause the snow to be more compact and heavier than the same volume of snow in consistent cold weather and more attention should be paid in these cases.

Cracking in the paint or drywall at the corners of door or window frames, doors or windows that become difficult or impossible to open or close and any sounds of breaking or cracking wood are all signs that it’s time to have the snow removed.

It can be very dangerous to attempt to remove the snow from your roof yourself. There is an increased risk of falling because of the slippery surface and a risk of damaging your roofing system if it is not done properly. It is best to leave a thin layer of snow on the roof to avoid scraping the roof with a shovel.

Ice Damming
Most problems resulting in leaking or damage to a roofing system in winter and early spring are caused by ice damming. Depending on the slope of your roof, it may not require much ice at all to cause a problem. For example, a roof with a 2:12 slope could have problems with anything over an inch thick of ice.

Most ice dams are a result of excessive heat loss or poor ventilation. Hot air gets trapped in the attic causing the snow to melt, which then freezes once it reaches the unheated portion of the eaves. Once enough ice has built up that it prevents the water from easily flowing down the roof’s slope, the water begins to pool behind the dam and works its way through the roofing system (between shingles and through nail or screw holes). It is usually easy to identify if a leak is the result of ice damming by the location of the leak. Ice dams usually form along exterior walls and therefore this is where the leaks most likely occur. Water is most commonly seen entering near window and door openings as well as through light fixtures because these are the areas where the vapor barrier was cut during the home’s construction to make an opening.

There are two ways that ice damming can damage your roof system. The first is simply the natural expansion of ice once it works its way under the shingles. The force of the expanding ice can cause the shingles to rip, buckle and curl and cause excessive granule loss. The second and most common cause of damage to the roofing system is improper removal of the ice. Less experienced individuals often attempt to remove all the ice and end up peeling off portions of shingles that it was frozen to. The best way to deal with ice dams is simply to break pathways a few inches wide every couple of feet across the affected area to create a clear path for water to flow from the roof. It is most effective if most of the snow is removed from the roof beforehand. Pathways must be broken into the ice using a hammer or other tool. It is important to pay close attention not to hit too hard as you make your way through the ice to the roofing system. When using a roofing hatchet, use the hatchet side only for the thickest part of the ice and the hammer side if the ice is less than two inches thick (hatchet markings are very common). There is always a slight risk of damage to a roof when dealing with ice dams, the risk is reduced when it is done properly. Having the ice removed can prevent thousands of dollars of damage that could be caused by water infiltration.

If you have frequent or reoccurring problems with ice damming, it may be a good idea to have your attic’s insulation and ventilation verified by a professional.