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Snow Build Up on Roofs

By January 22, 2020January 27th, 2020Personal Insurance
St. John's Record Snowfall

St. John’s and the rest of the Avalon Peninsula have seen unprecedented amounts of snow in the last week. As you continue to dig out for these monumental levels it is crucial to check certain areas of your home to ensure nothing has been damaged.

Heavy snowfall, ice, and freezing rain can wreak havoc on your home’s roof. In some cases, roofs can’t withstand the heavy loads brought on by extreme weather, causing them to collapse altogether. In addition, as snow and ice melt, water damage can occur if your home’s roof isn’t structurally sound.

Assessing Your Roof and Taking Action

One of the first steps you can take to protect your roof from collapse is to determine whether or not it is susceptible to snow or ice accumulation. The best way to accomplish this is to assess your roof’s slope.

If constructed properly, a sloped roof can shed heavy snow, ice or melting water. In general, the gentler the slope, the more at risk you are for roof collapse. Most builders recommend a slope that is greater than 10 centimeters (4 inches) vertically and 30 centimeters (12 inches) horizontally. In general, it’s best to have a roof with a steep pitch to promote the shedding of snow.

However, even with a sloped roof, snow and ice can still build up on flat areas or around obstructions like chimneys, skylights and dormers. As a result, it’s important for homeowners to regularly evaluate their roof, particularly after a significant storm. Specifically, homeowners should look for:

  1. New water leaks that appear to come from the roof or attic area
  2. Exterior doors that become difficult to open or close as a result of heavy loads on the roof
  3. New cracks in drywall and plaster
  4. Sagging roofs If you notice any of the above issues following a storm, it’s important to take immediate action to clear loads from your roof and avoid a potential collapse.

However, there are some practical, do-it-yourself methods to consider:

  • Snow removal—To aid in snow removal, homeowners can purchase a long snow rake with an extendible arm. This tool allows you to clear away large accumulations of snow safely from the ground. When doing this, homeowners should remain attentive and keep their distance from falling debris.
  • Ice removal—Clearing ice from your roof can be a challenge, particularly because manual ice removal is extremely dangerous and should be avoided if possible. However, there are several safe methods to consider:
    • Use a snow rake to create a drainage path. That way, once the ice melts, water will have a means of egress from the roof, eliminating the risk of standing water and major damage.
    • Work with a contractor to install electric heating cables on your roof. This allows ice to melt and safely drain.

January 22, 2020 – We realize the above methods are not practical during the current State of Emergency in and around St. John’s, however checking your roof and attic area for leaks and damages now will allow you to make repairs and/or seek professional services when the State of Emergency is lifted. Have a claim? Please call 1-800-706-2676. For emergency snow clearing help please call the City of St. John’s hotline at 709-729-3703.

In addition to the above tips, proper roof maintenance is crucial when it comes to preventing snow & ice dams. Specifically, you should ensure that roof drainage systems, such as scuppers, gutters and downspouts are free of debris and working properly. Be sure to also cut back overhanging trees or vegetation, as falling debris can clog your drainage systems. Learn more on our homeowner’s insurance policies.

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Author Jamie Ross

Jamie Ross leads the Marketing and Communications team at Wedgwood Insurance, renowned as one of Atlantic Canada’s premier independent insurance brokers. Bringing a wealth of experience amassed over many years at some of Canada's most esteemed advertising agencies, Jamie transitioned to the insurance industry in 2017. This pivotal move has marked a period of significant professional growth and contribution to the field. A native Nova Scotian, Jamie has been a resident of St. John's, NL, since 2011, where he has become an integral part of the local community. Learn more about Jamie.

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