Should You Shovel the Snow Off Your Roof?

Chicago snowFebruary 2015 goes down in the weather record books as the coldest February in Chicago history. Adding to the frigid temperatures was a snowstorm. According to, the average temperature was 14.6 degrees, and the city saw its third heaviest snowfall on record at 26.8 inches. All of this snow has raised major concerns for home and business owners, leading many people to ask, “How much snow can MY roof hold?” Well, it depends on a variety of factors including the type of building, size and design of the roof, how much snow is on the roof and most importantly how much that snow weighs.
Snow can weigh anywhere from 35 to 65 pounds per square foot (PSF), depending on the type of the snow (i.e. light and fluffy vs. wet and heavy). If the snow is light and fluffy and there doesn’t seem to be more than a couple inches, your roof should be okay; however, a couple inches of icy, wet snow can be dangerous as it can weigh up to 57 PSF!
Although the weight can vary depending on the type of snow, one thing is for certain: low-pitch roofs are much more susceptible to collapsing. A low-pitch roof is one that is more parallel to the ground, so it is less steep and more likely to collect and hold snow. If you have a low pitch roof and you’ve accumulated more than 18-inches of snow, shovel the snow off your roof immediately, especially if the snow is wet and icy.
There are a variety of household tools available to clear snow off your roof, but a roof rake is the best device because it is specifically designed for this task. Use a snow blower, snowshoe or a trample to clear the area below the roof before starting to clear the snow off your roof. Rake from the snow closest to the edge to the snow farthest up the roof in a downward stroke. All the snow does not need to come off.
Remember, safety is a top priority. Remove what you can, but don’t risk life and limb in the process!  When you have a low pitch roof snow removal becomes much more dangerous. To decide whether you should shovel snow off your roof, evaluate it based on type of snow, the roof age, the roof type and the warning signs. When in doubt, call a snow removal service in the area. These companies are much better equipped to removing snow off your roof.
A roof can collapse without warning; however, this is less likely. Usually, it will start to sag from the weight of the snow. It may even creak, crack or make a popping sound. If you hear any of these noises or warning signs, leave your house immediately and call the fire department.
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