Can Snow Damage My Roof?

Climate shift is causing some strange weather patterns. If you live in an area that rarely has much in the way of snow, you may be seeing more. If you live where winter snow is normal, you may be experiencing some heavier individual snowfalls, even if overall snow accumulations are not greater for the year. Getting 10 feet of snow over a season is not as bad as getting three feet at one time, and a 36-inch snowfall is not out of the question for many areas. Building codes require occupied structures to have roofs that are capable of handling expected snow loads for the area the structures are built, but snow damage to your roof can come in different ways.

Snow Loads

To prevent catastrophic roof damage that could lead to a collapse, building codes in different geographical areas have varying snow load requirements for roof structures. Roofs can be made of everything from fabrics to concrete, and the snow loads can vary greatly. For example, it is highly unlikely to ever snow in Miami to the degree where it would cause structural damage. In fact, January 19th, 1977 was the first recorded snowfall for the area. At the other extreme, the snow season for a ski region of Mount Baker in Washington began in July in 1998. There was a total of accumulation of 95 feet for the entire season. If Miami had a snowfall like that, roof damage would be inevitable.

Winter icicles hanging from eaves of roof

Ice Damage

Snow brings ice. This is especially true for snow on your roof. There may not be a speck of ice on the ground, but you can have thick sheets of it on your roof. They form ice dams due to the insulative nature of the snow along with the heat coming from your home. Your furnace keeps you warm, and the heat escapes even with the best insulation. Heat rises and melts the lower layer of snow on your roof. The liquid water flows to the edge and refreezes at the edge in the gutters, forming ice dams. The water can back up under shingles and roofing tile. Even if it has not migrated into your home to cause dripping water in an attic, it can still wet and weaken roof sheathing over time as well as contribute to mold growth that further damages wood. This leads to the need for roof replacement.

Roof Failure

In 2010, the Metrodome in Minnesota had a spectacular roof collapse caught on Fox News TV cameras set up early to record a game the following day. The cameras were left running and captured the event on video. The Metrodome used a fabric roof supported by positive air pressure. A 17-inch snowfall and high winds led to a roof collapse at the structure. Your house is not likely to have a fabric roof, but it is still susceptible to snow damage if the conditions are right. Your home, whether it is a manufactured home or one built on site, has a maximum recommended load per square foot. This can be compromised based on changes to your home over the years such as room additions, slight water damage that has been getting worse as time goes on, and inferior materials or non-standard building methods used in original construction. Any individual component or combination of issues could lead to a need for roof replacement that involves more than just the surface materials.

gutters with iceRoof Inspection

Your house may endure 100 years of snowfalls without an issue as long as you keep the roof covered with materials that stop the ingress of water. However, your roof may have damage occurring subtly over the seasons without any obvious signs. Trained roof inspectors have the knowledge and experience to test all types of roof structures whether they are made of wood, steel or other materials. Plus, they can inspect roof surfaces from concrete tile to asphalt shingles for problems that could lead to snow damage in the winter. The health of your roof on the inside is as important as the health of its surface covering. We invite you to give us a call for a complete comprehensive roof inspection to protect your home for years to come.

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