Averting Catastrophe – The Dangers Of Snow On Your Roof

In the winter months heavy snowfall can present serious safety and structural issues with your property and you may be legally liable for any resulting incidents. If snow is forecast in your area be prepared for the consequences and keep a close eye on the developing situation as being alert could save your property or a life!

The Hazards

Heavy snow accumulation on roofs adds considerable weight to the structure and can cause the roof to collapse or induce severe damage to the house. The increased weight can result in walls bowing outwards under the pressure, joists moving and giving way and internal structures like staircases experiencing significant movement. Blocked gutters can trap melt water causing it to re-freeze and form ice dams which add further weight to the structure and prevent melt water flowing away into the drainage system.

Water pouring off roofs will freeze on the ground and form sheet ice which is a serious safety hazard. Ice dams will also ultimately damage your guttering which will need repairing after the snow has gone. Heavy rainfall after the snow has fallen will be absorbed by the snow and add even more weight. Melting snow can penetrate your home via broken tiles and flashings which could cause extensive internal damage. If icicles form on your property they can become detached and fall injuring or killing anyone unfortunate enough to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. Even after the snowfall has finished your problems continue as melt water can overwhelm drainage systems and flooding will ensue.


Your potential issues can be mitigated by undertaking the proper preparation. Perform routine checks throughout the year to ensure your roof and guttering is in good condition. Roofs can often be inspected from the ground with the use of binoculars but if this is not possible engage an expert to help you as accessing your roof can be very dangerous.

Repair any broken tiles, flashings, damaged guttering and roofline soffits and replace any missing mortar from your ridge tiles. Remove moss growth as this can absorb additional moisture, adding weight, and can weaken the waterproofing properties of slates. Clear all gutters and drains of debris and obstructions and check the condition of downpipes. Establish what weight your roof is designed to withstand so you will know if you are running into problems.

After Snowfall

When snow has started to fall keep an eye on the situation. Be aware of the depth of snow accumulating on your roof and if you think it has reached a level that may threaten your home seek expert advice in clearing some of the load. Never attempt to access your roof and clear it yourself this is simply too hazardous.

If you do have to clear some snow as a matter of emergency, use a lightweight, non-metal rake and clear the snow from the ground taking care not to pull too much down at once. Monitor your guttering and if ice dams form, try to clear them if you can gain safe access. Look for signs of stress on the building like bowing walls, sagging roofs, cracked ceilings and plastering and the movement of staircases. Listen for unusual sounds coming from the building as this could be a sign of trouble to come.

If icicles have formed knock them off if you can safely do so or erect barriers to prevent anyone walking underneath them. Keep any cleared snow and ice away from drains and avoid forming obstructions.

Be vigilant

If you keep your roof well maintained and your guttering clear you can avoid many of the potential dangers of snowfall. If you keep an eye on the developing situation and are aware of the danger signs and you should avert most potential catastrophes.

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Sally S writes on a wide range of subjects – everything from home construction to art. You can find out more about Sally Stacey via her Google+ profile.

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