How Snow Can Damage Your Roof
When it snows in New England, many homeowners are concerned about shoveling and deicing their driveways to prevent accidents. While the roof plays a very important role in the structure of a home, it’s often “out of sight, out of mind”.
Yet forgetting about snow removal from the roof may result in ice dams, leaks or collapse. Learn more about the different types of roof damage caused by winter conditions.
Your roof can partially or fully collapse under the weight of snow. This risk increases the longer you wait to repair old or rotting roof material.
The force of new accumulation atop a couple feet of older, compressed snow can cause sagging and buckling. Snow that melts but cannot roll off the roof may freeze into a block of ice and form an ice dam. With enough stress applied, the material may eventually collapse.
When you spot icicles along the edge of the roof, you’re likely dealing with ice dams. These indicate that ice has started to build up along the eaves, a sign of uneven or inconsistent temperature that causes snow to melt, drift down and refreeze toward the base.
Rather than roll off, the accumulation remains on the roof, growing a mound of ice that can lead to water and mold damage, pull down your gutter or cause part of the roof to cave in.
Although ice dams can be responsible for leaks, the freeze and thaw cycle can cause cracks to form on your roof. These don’t need to be large for the phenomenon to occur; even a hairline crack can be responsible for a leak. During the winter season, water freezes in this small opening, causing it to widen and increase the potential for damage.
In addition to cracks created by the thaw cycle, homes with skylights are at higher risk for leaks after a snowstorm. When ice melts and starts to travel, it can pass through the flashing around the skylight or accumulate inside the fixture. As a result, the skylight may shatter or the surrounding material may start to rot.
If ignored, you’re not only dealing with a damaged skylight but will likely need to replace part of your roof and adjacent drywall.
As blocked gutters can contribute to ice dams, a cleaning should be scheduled before winter begins to remove any leaves and debris from the fall season.
If clogged gutters are ignored, your home will likely experience water and mold damage. The weight of the ice may also cause the gutter system to detach, which alters how water flows from your home and will require repairs or replacement.
Mold and Rot
Unfortunately, mold damage from snow thawing is not always obvious at first. Water that slides down to the ice dam gets backed up and eventually absorbed by the roofing materials. This can lead to rot, mildew and mold growth, damaged shingles or drywall and increased risk for leaks and collapse.
Another consequence of water backing up from an ice dam, moisture and air can become trapped between the layers composing your roof. Along with mold and rot, this can cause a blistering effect that starts to weaken the roofing materials. Flat and roofs with a low incline are at greater risk.
How to Reduce Roof Damage from Snow
To avoid the scenarios detailed above:
- Have your roof inspected and repaired before the first snowfall. This only becomes harder with accumulation.
- Invest in a roof rake to pull down snow from the ground, instead of standing on a ladder. This device comes with a telescoping pole and can help break up ice to prevent the formation of a dam.
- Although a roof rake and deicer can help control ice dams, regular formation can indicate issues with home temperature and roof design. Consider installing heating cables or mats, update your attic’s insulation, repair the flashing around the chimney or ventilate your attic if the forecast predicts snow.
- Clear gutters and downspouts at the start of winter, then periodically throughout the season to remove leaves and branches.
Due to safety risks, avoid standing on your roof or using a ladder to remove any snow or ice accumulation. If you cannot reach with a roof rake, contact a professional for removal.
Make sure your homeowner’s insurance reflects perils for your region, including snow and ice-related concerns. To discuss coverage, contact a HUB/Ion Insurance agent today.