House & Garden

When Snow or Ice Damages Your Home: What to Do?

With winter on its way, homeowners across the country are taking steps to prepare for falling temperatures and the snow and ice that so frequently accompany them. While there are some steps homeowners can take to prevent damage, there’s no way to predict when a serious storm could hit. Even well-prepared homeowners should still know what to do when snow and ice damage rear their ugly heads.

The Best Way to Prepare

Most homeowners prepare for winter by switching out screens for storm windows and doors, cleaning out the gutters, and turning off the water supply to outdoor taps. These steps may be important, but they won’t necessarily prevent snow and ice damage from taking its toll on the roof. 

Property owners who want to make sure their roofs are as well-prepared as possible should also contact a company like RoofTec that can provide roof maintenance and repairs. Identifying and resolving minor problems in the fall can help to protect the roof against more severe storm damage. Plus, expert roofers can offer advice and help with preparing any roofing material to weather winter storms.

Risks Associated With Heavy Snowfall

When most people living in cold climates think about the risks posed by heavy snow, they immediately imagine disaster-level scenarios where snow overloads the roof and causes a sudden collapse. Though roof collapse due to snow overloading is one of the most serious issues a homeowner can face in the winter, it’s also, thankfully, one of the rarest of them.

The amount of snow it takes to overload a roof varies based on several factors. According to FEMA, the main factors contributing to snow-induced structural failures include:

ยท  Roof shape

Roof slope

Initial construction techniques

Maintenance schedules

Wind exposure

Type of snow

In most cases, it takes at least four feet of fresh, fluffy snow or two feet of dense, compressed snow to stress a properly installed roof. Plus, in areas of the country that regularly experience heavy snowfall, local building codes usually require designs that can handle greater weight.

How to Reduce the Risk of Snow Overload

Though the chances of roof failures due to snow overloading are relatively low, it’s still important for homeowners to be prepared. This century’s increasingly unpredictable weather patterns mean there’s no way to know what any given winter will have in store. Homeowners who live in snow-prone areas should have their roofs inspected in the early fall so their roofing contractors will have time to recommend and implement necessary repairs.

Some people like to use roof rakes to clear excess snow off of their roofs from the ground. While this strategy is effective when performed correctly, it’s important to follow routine safety procedures to protect both residents and the roof. If there’s no way for residents to rake the roof safely and they’re afraid of snow overloading, the best solution is to call a roofing contractor.

Risks Associated With Ice Buildup

Just about anyone who has grown up in a cold climate has probably stopped to appreciate the unique seasonal beauty of icicles hanging from a roof. Unfortunately, while icicles may be pretty, they’re also a sign of serious roof trouble. They indicate that ice dams are building up along the eaves of the roof.

If left unaddressed, ice dams can damage a home’s gutters, push up its shingles, and cause roof leaks. There are two DIY methods for removing ice dams manually. Homeowners can either pull them off the roof using a roof rake or apply calcium chloride to melt the ice. The problem is, neither of these solutions prevents ice dams from re-forming.

How to Prevent Ice Dams

By far the best way to tackle ice dams is to prevent them from occurring, to begin with, by addressing the underlying problem. Ice dams occur due to uneven roof temperatures. Near the middle of an affected roof, heat escapes from the attic and warms up the roof, melting the snow. When the melted snow reaches the bottom of the roof or the gutters, it re-freezes, causing a buildup of ice.

To reduce ice buildup, homeowners must change the temperatures on their roofs. They can do this by either taking measures to stop heat from leaking out of the house, such as sealing air gaps and insulating the attic, or by installing a heated cable at the roof’s edge to melt the ice. It’s best to discuss both of these options with a qualified roofing contractor before deciding which one will be the best fit.

Risks Associated With Snow Melt

The most common form of damage from snow doesn’t occur while storms are raging, but once the temperatures start to rise. The rising temperatures cause the snow to melt, and without proper precautions in place, the water can easily infiltrate the home’s foundation, damaging the walls and flooding the basement. Over time, the problem will worsen as repeated melt and freeze cycles continue to add new cracks to the foundation.

How to Prevent Flooding Due to Snow Melt

There are two things homeowners can do to prevent water damage from melting snow. They can seal up any existing cracks and their foundations and ensure proper drainage outside their homes.

Before winter, homeowners should make sure their gutters are clear and properly angled toward the street drains, not toward the foundation. The grade around the house should also slope away to prevent melting snow on the ground from causing water damage. It’s also a good idea to inspect the foundation and seal cracks with concrete caulk well before the first snowstorm hits.

Get Ready: Winter Is on Its Way

There’s no changing the weather, but anyone living in a cold, snow-prone area of the country already knows how important it is to be prepared for winter snow, ice, and cold. Now is the time to schedule a roof inspection, repair the foundation, and winterize the home’s exterior. Families that take preventative action now will be able to enjoy watching the snowfall from the comfort of their warm homes instead of wasting time and energy outside raking off snow and melting ice dams, so it’s worth the extra work.

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