man shovelling snow off roof in winter

Ontario winters may be a little unpredictable at times, but they also come with one constant: lots of snow and ice! 

Snow, sleet, freezing rain, and even the occasional rain can really take their toll on your home’s exterior. 

And we all know to keep driveways and walkways clear of snow, but what about your roof?

Should you shovel your roof? And if so, when, exactly, do you shovel your roof in the winter?

Fortunately, we have all the information you need to understand the potential hazards of snow and when you should shovel your roof!

Benefits of Leaving Snow on Your Roof?

Before you grab your shovel and start clearing the snow, there are some benefits to snow on your roof. 

Snow on your roof can help to lower your heating costs! 

A light layer can provide some insulation, acting as a barrier against frigid, extremely cold temperatures. 

It is also a way to gauge the health of your home’s insulation. If you notice this light snow melts faster than the snow on the other roofs in your neighbourhood, it could mean that you are losing heat through your attic insulation. 

If, on the other hand, you’re the last house on the street with snow on the roof, your insulation is likely in good working condition. 

Things to Consider Before You Remove Snow From Your Roof

There are a number of factors you need to consider before determining if you should remove snow from your roof.

These factors include: 

  • What your roof is made of: snow and ice are commonly known to slide off metal roofs. In contrast, snow and ice can cling to shingled roofs.
  • The pitch of the roof: Roofs with less than a 3/12 pitch (14.04°) are relatively flat and it is difficult for snow and ice to fall from the roof. This can lead to the formation of ice dams. 
  • The weather forecast: If there are going to be upward temperature fluctuations it could be a problem. If rain falls and pools on top of accumulated snow, it can create additional weight and may cause catastrophic damage. 
  • The age of your home: Houses of different ages may have different standards for snow loads at the time of construction. Older homes can be more susceptible to thermal issues and rot. 
  • The amount of snow: If you consistently have large amounts of snow on the roof, it is a good idea to shovel. If snow accumulates but melts or falls off quickly, it may not be necessary to shovel. 

roof covered in snow

When Should You Remove Snow From Your Roof?

If any of the above considerations apply to you and your home then you are likely wondering how to safely remove snow from your roof and under what circumstances you should do so. 

Here’s when to shovel your roof:

After a Heavy Snowfall

Whether a large amount of snow has accumulated over days and weeks, or you just experienced a good old-fashioned blizzard, consider removing snow from your roof. 

Generally speaking, after roughly 15 cm (6 inches) of snowfall, your roof should be cleared. 

And the sooner you do it, the better. Freshly fallen snow is often the lightest and easiest to remove. 

You Have a Low Pitch Roof

Flat or low pitch roofs are most likely to experience massive snow accumulations and large snowdrifts. 

If all, or some, of your home, has a low pitch, keep a careful eye on the situation. It might be necessary to remove snow from this area more frequently. Watch out for greater accumulations in certain areas. 

When Ice Dams Begin to Form

Ice dams can cause water to leak into your walls, ceiling, and insulation. It is also possible that ice dams can trigger a roof collapse, forcing you into a winter roof replacement

This phenomenon occurs when snow and ice melt, caused by escaping indoor heat or outdoor temperature fluctuations. The water then moves towards the eaves, where the temperatures are cooler, and it refreezes, leading to a build-up of ice and water. 

The water can back up under the shingles and seep into your home. 

If you notice large icicles forming or you have noticed water damage to your walls or ceiling, it may be a sign that you have ice dams

Removing snow means there is little to nothing there to melt in the first place, eliminating this particular risk. 

You Can Observe a Large Snow Load on the Roof

Large snow loads do not necessarily mean you should remove snow from your roof. The weight of the snow matters. Wet snow, for example, is much heavier than ‘dry’ snow. Any person that has ever shovelled a driveway or cleared off a car, understands this difference naturally. 

Ice can also be a factor in weight. Ice weighs more than snow. And old snow and fresh snow can combine to create a heavier load than you may expect. 

To get a better idea of how much your roof can handle, look into local building codes.

If you do not have the time or the resources to find the proper building codes, it is a good idea to clear snow accumulations from your roof as much as possible. 

If Your House Begins Making Noises

A house will tell you it’s in trouble if you know what to listen for. 

If your home is suddenly making popping, cracking, creaking, or other unusual noises, it may be a sign that the snow on your roof is too heavy. 

All homes make noises, so listen closely in the winter months to identify anything that sounds out of the ordinary. 

If Damage is Noticed in the House

Water spots, ceiling warps, cracked drywall, and fluctuations in the fit of door frames can be a sign of damage to your roof caused by snow accumulation. 

The best thing to do in this situation is to remove as much snow from your roof as possible and hire a roofing contractor to properly assess the damage and make any necessary repairs. 

How to Safely Remove Snow From Your Roof

While all of this information may have inspired you to grab the shovel and climb to the roof, this is not a good idea. 

Getting on the roof can be dangerous at the best of times. With the added snow, ice, and wind, it is better to rely on specialized tools and roofing specialists to get the job done. 

A roof rake can be purchased at most home improvement stores. These tools can reach up to 30 feet in length, allowing you to remove most snow accumulations from your roof without having to leave the ground. 

For larger and more complex roof structures, you may have to call in a professional roofing contractor like Energy Kingston Exteriors. Our professional roofing specialists know how to assess the situation and safely remove the snow buildup. And if you are concerned that the snow has caused damage to your roof, we can check while we are up there, giving you the peace of mind you need to feel safe and comfortable in your home. 

Don’t let that snow sit a second longer! Contact us today