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Ice Dams | Roof Maintenance

5 Ways Snow & Ice Impact Your Roof

February 19, 2024 | 4 min. read

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As winter spreads its icy grip across the landscape, the scenic beauty of snow-covered roofs can evoke a sense of wonder. However, beneath this picturesque facade lies a potential hazard for homeowners. 

Snow and ice accumulation on roofs can lead to a variety of problems, ranging from structural damage to safety hazards. Understanding how snow and ice impact your roof is crucial for protecting your home and ensuring its longevity.

Rescue My Roof has spent over a decade working through the nasty Wisconsin Winters helping people just like you. We have educated them on the best methods for keeping their roof in top-notch shape all winter, and today we are extending that opportunity to you.

In this article, you’ll learn the four things that could go awry if you allow too much snow to build up on your roof. And by the end, you’ll know exactly why you should continue roof maintenance during the winter. 

What Can Happen When You Have Too Much Snow On Your Roof?

For many homeowners, when it comes to their roofs, it’s out of sight, out of mind. But during the winter months, it’s best to keep track of how much snow and ice is on your roof.

While your roof has lasted through countless winters, there are several problems that could occur should you have too much snow accumulation on your roof.

Here are a few things you should be aware of before allowing too much snow to build up:

1. Roof Leaks

Once that snow on your roof begins to melt, there will be water – a lot of it. And with water and moisture on your roof comes leaks.

You may see leaks occurring where there’s flashing, penetrations in the roof like nails, or around your chimney and gutters. 

Once the water finds its way into your home, it can do even more damage. It can lead to mold growth in the attic space and drywall damage. Both of these can be costly to repair, so it’s best to avoid snow build-up altogether. 

2. Ice Dams

Ice dam formation over mesh gutter guards.

We’ve said it before, and we’ll say it again: ice dams are the main culprit of winter roofing issues.

When all of that snow begins to melt on your roof from the sun and heat loss from your attic, but the temperature is still cold, the melted snow will refreeze towards your gutters. Over time, this build-up of ice will creep up your roof and underneath shingles, prying them up and making your roof susceptible to leaks.

Other issues come with ice dams, like damaged gutters, and shingles and the potential water build-up around your home’s foundation.

Again, this can be costly to repair. Ice dam remediation can run upwards of $200 per hour, with many contractors asking for a minimum of two hours. 

Get ahead of ice dam formation with heating cables and other preventative measures to avoid future damage. 

3. Roof Sagging

Garage roof sagging.

If you saw your roof sagging, the first reaction would probably be fear. Roofs aren’t supposed to do that, right?

The answer is no; they’re not. Roof sagging means that the integrity of your roof is compromised and that it may be at risk for collapse. 

If your roof has begun to sag, there are two options: bracing the rafters in your roof to provide more structure or alleviating the weight off of your roof using tools like a roof rake. 

 There is one thing that is certain – you need to call a professional. Once it gets to this point, you don’t want to risk your home’s safety. Call a roofing contractor to get an inspection and professional opinion. 

4. Broken Rafters

Cracked wooden rafters in an attic space.

If there is too much weight on your roof, the wooden supports in your roof (the rafters) can snap under the weight.

Depending on the age of your home, you may be more at risk for broken rafters. The construction standards have changed in recent years. Newer homes now require rafters that are closer together and can bear more weight.

Older homes are at a higher risk because the wood is older, and the rafters are more likely to be farther apart. This decreases the amount of weight your roof can handle. 

That is why it is essential to invest in tools like a roof rake or call a professional to shovel off your roof if it is inaccessible. If snow build-up leads to broken rafters, it will be challenging and costly to repair. 

If one to two rafters are broken, it will cost anywhere between $2,000 to $2,500. However, this is a preventable repair. 

By using maintenance tools like a roof rake or even heating cables, you are saving yourself thousands in repair costs. 

5. Sagging Gutters

Sagging gutters pulling away from the home.

Gutters and downspouts play a crucial role in directing water away from the roof and foundation of the home. However, snow and ice accumulation can impede proper drainage, leading to clogs and backups.

 Ice dams can also damage gutters and downspouts, causing them to sag, pull away from the roof, or even detach entirely. This not only compromises the functionality of the drainage system but can also pose a safety hazard to occupants and passersby.

To protect your entire roofing system, use heating cables, roof rakes, or even professional snow removal services to remove excess snow and ice. 

Preventing Snow and Ice Build Up

To avoid ghastly consequences like broken rafters, roof sagging, and ice dams, you must invest some time into your roof.

The first thing you can do is purchase a roof rake (we recommend the ones with wheels to avoid further damage). A roof rake is a rake that is attached to a long pole to allow you to reach your roof to scrape off the snow. 

One of the biggest benefits a roof rake provides is that you can use it from the safety of the ground, meaning you don’t have to make the treacherous climb onto your roof. 

Additionally, you can install heating cables along the edges of your roof. Heating cables connect to a power source and generate heat to help melt snow and ice on your roof.

Your last option is to call a roofing company. Roofing contractors can do more than install roofs and do inspections. During the winter months, they can also shovel off your roof! If you find there is a lot of snow on your roof and you don’t own a roof rake, you can call a roofing contractor to shovel your roof.

These services typically run $200 per hour, but if you are limited in options and have the budget, this may be the ideal option for you. 

Learn more about winter roof maintenance with “What Are Snow Guards (Cost, Installation, and More)” and “How to Ensure the Longevity of Your Roof.” If you typically experience massive snow build-up in the greater Milwaukee area, you can contact Rescue My Roof to get a free estimate. From ice dam remediation to roof shoveling, we have got you covered.