Roofing contractors across the country are preparing to respond to calls for roof leaks and roof snow-load removal as the winter months close in. It is hard to imagine that those beautiful, fluffy individual snowflakes can combine and build-up to create a potential structural threat to homes and businesses. Nevertheless, home and business owners across the country can attest to the potential problems associated with snow accumulation, especially on flat roofs.
Roofers know that heavy snowfall, especially if it is a wet snow followed by a deep frost, can result in everything from small roof leaks creating minor damage to collapsed roofs and more. Prompt snow removal is very important. The longer snow remains on a roof, the more likely it is to freeze and harden. When this happens, ice damming occurs which prevents melting ice from escaping through drains and then it pools up on the roof. Over the winter, the water can pool and refreeze repeatedly, expanding and contracting until it creates small fractures in the roofing material itself. Ultimately, the only place for melting water to go then is through the roof since the ice dams surround it.
Ice and snow removal from the roof can be hazardous. Not only are snow-covered roofs slippery, but the snow burden can actually shift during the process of removal, causing large and heavy chunks to dislodge at once resulting in frightening falls and other injuries. A professional roofer can clear drains of ice, remove dangerous ice cycles and shovel show expertly from roofs. Roofers have the required equipment needed including ladders, harnesses, and may even use special shoes to remove built-up snow and ice.
Home and business owners can damage their roofs by trying to remove the snow themselves. Because of snow depth and especially if snow has frozen to ice, it is easy to dig too hard during the removal process and actually penetrate the surface of the roof leading to leaks and roof damage. In addition, power lines may have sagged onto or near the roof compounding the dangers of snow removal. Another complication is that trees burdened by heavy snowfall may break off and damage all types of roofs regardless of pitch or type of roof.
Structural damage is the biggest concern for high loads of snow setting on roofs. This type of damage includes sagging beams, newly developed exterior or interior cracks in walls, especially over windows and doors, water leakage in walls or inside buildings, buckling of interior or exterior siding or stucco. One of the first signs of a leak is water stains. If you have a water leak, contact your roofing contractor immediately. Small roof repairs cost a fraction of the amount associated with installing an entire new roof and any potential structural repairs.
As in most cases, prevention of leaks is always the best and least expensive route to ensuring your roof holds up well in the winter. Have your roofing contractor conduct a weight measurement and inspect your roof and drainage system before the first big storm if possible. Then develop a plan with your roofer for snow removal for when that large storm hits.