Should I Clear the Snow Off My Roof?

Roof Owner's Checklist | December 9, 2021

snow covered residential home with the caption "Should I clear the snow off my roof?"

The Good News: Your roof was made to withstand the conditions

Roofs are designed and built for all weather conditions, including snow. Architects and structural engineers are careful to ensure that the roofs they design are capable of easily holding up under snow and ice conditions. 

Below are average snow falls for our service area:

County Average Snowfall (inches)
Berks 20
Chester 24
Cumberland 28
Dauphin 27.3
Lancaster 24
Lebanon 24
Montgomery 18.4
York 23.2

 

We all experience a wild snow storm occasionally. Yet thankfully, these averages are something your roof should be able to handle!

Building standards require your roof to meet minimums

Local municipalities have strict building codes and standards to ensure that homes and buildings are built according to plan. Each area will experience varying degrees of harsh winter weather. Therefore, your city might require additional elements to your roofing system than other cities. This is why it’s important to obtain building permits when doing construction. Additions and renovations are great, but the last thing you need is a poorly constructed roof which fails to do its job. 

 

It’s not just light fluffy snow on your roof!

up close picture of a roof with snow and ice

Usually, when there’s snow on the roof, there’s ice under the snow. This makes your roof exponentially more treacherous!

As warm air from inside the building rises and hits the roof, it will melt a portion of the snow that is in direct contact with the roof. During cold nights, this melted snow is re-frozen, creating an icy layer under the buildup of snow. 

How will I know if there is too much snow weight on my roof?

You’ll notice the strain from the inside of your home. You can go to the uppermost floor of your structure and check the doors. If there is too much weight from above, it’ll warp the door frames. This will make the doors stick slightly or make them harder to open. 

Your steep roof may work in your favor

If you have a relatively steep pitch, it’s likely the snow will slide down the roof before causing structural issues.

Lower slopes and flat roofs are at higher risk for the weight of snow and ice to push the limits.

 

red vinyl siding home with a snow covered roof

Can I shovel the snow off my roof if I need to?

Not recommended. Using a shovel may damage your roof materials. Asphalt shingles may get torn or punctured, resulting in a leak spot. 

Flat roofs with rubber are even more prone to punctures and tears from tools. So just because you can walk on a flat roof doesn’t mean you should shovel the snow from it. 

The quality of the roof materials and workmanship matter 

Assuming the roof materials have been correctly installed, you should have no worries about possible leaks developing from ice and snow on the roof. 

Unfortunately, many roofs are not installed correctly. Some roofers lack patience or knowledge in critical areas of roofing, such as the flashing details in valleys and penetrations (chimneys, pipes, skylights, etc).

In cases like this, ice and snow will often cause a roof leak. 

To prevent this from happening, it can be helpful to have a professional roofer inspect your roof before winter. 

Flat roofs – pay special attention to the installation and materials

This is an especially important consideration for flat or low-sloped roofs of any size. Melting water which would run off of a steeper roof will just set on a flat roof. If the roof isn’t tight, it will leak. 

 

What if I need to replace my roof in the winter?

You can replace your roof in the winter – if it’s done correctly. For flat rubber roofs that install EPDM, roofers must switch to a solvent-based glue in the winter months. This is the recommended practice once temperatures drop below 40 degrees Fahrenheit.

For asphalt shingles, heat from direct sunlight initiates the sealing process for the tar strip under each shingle. With less sun and heat in the winter, it does take longer for the sealant to activate. This is why you want to make sure the shingle installation is done correctly to prevent blow off.

If there is frozen precipitation remaining on your roof, most roofers will wait until that snow has mostly cleared before starting your project.

 

Reach out to a professional

Before jumping on a ladder in freezing temperatures with a shovel in hand, call a roofer. A professional can help determine if you need to remove snow from your roof and could help schedule time to perform the task. 

If you’re in southeastern Pennsylvania, we’re excited to talk to you!