Everyone here in the greater Utica area remembers the unbelievable snowstorm of March 2017. It seemed to never stop snowing that day. That heavy snowfall got us thinking about our homes here in the Mohawk Valley and the sometimes tremendous accumulation of snow on our roofs.
When should we shovel them off? How much does snow weigh? What about fresh snow as opposed to snow that’s built up over time? When does accumulated snow get dangerous?
Also, should homeowners buy a snow rake and get the snow off themselves? Or should they hire a roofer to do it for them?
For answers, we went to our main source for tips on preventing weather related disasters, the Insurance Institute for Business & Home Safety (IBHS).
How Much Snow Can Your Roof Support?
If your roof is in good shape, it should be able to handle 20 pounds per square foot of snow. This is true for most residential roofs. It isn’t exact, as there are older roofs, flat roofs, and shallow roofs that may stray from the 20 pound psf limit and there are different kinds of snow that stays for different durations.
Obviously, snow will melt and run off steep sloped roofs more quickly. That is, roofs with more than 3 inches of slope in 12 inches of horizontal distance. If your roof, or part of the roof, is low slope or flat, such as over porches or parts of a home next to a taller section of the house, ice and snow will tend to accumulate more rapidly.
The IBHS guidelines for estimating how much the snow on your roof weighs are:
“Fresh snow: 10-12 inches of new snow is equal to one inch of water, or about 5 lbs. per square foot of roof space. So you could have up to 4 feet of new snow before the roof will become stressed.
“Packed Snow: 3-5 inches of old snow is equal to one inch of water, or about 5 lbs. per square foot of roof space. Anything more than 2 feet of old snow could be too much for your roof to handle.
“Total accumulated weight: 2 feet of old snow and 2 feet of new snow could weigh as much as 60 lbs. per square foot of roof space. And that is beyond the typical snow load capacity of most roofs.
“Ice: 1 inch of ice equals 1 foot of fresh snow.”
We look at the “total accumulated weight” above and wonder if that’s all too possible here in the Utica area. So keep these guidelines in mind during this year’s winter months.
Know that you can hire a professional roofer to shovel the snow at reasonable cost. We recommend this, especially for larger roofs. We know of at least one homeowner who fell shoveling snow off the roof and broke his wrist.
If you want to get the snow off safely yourself, buy a snow rake with a long extension arm so you can get to the snow while you’re on the ground.
And what if your roof does collapse because of the weight of ice and snow? Yes, most homeowners insurance policies will pay for the damage. Call us to be sure you have the right amount of insurance on your home. Or to quote your homeowners insurance if we don’t carry it now.
But as we always say, though we pay for your damages, it’s always better not to suffer a tragedy in the first place. Keeping track of the amount of snow on your roof this winter will help you stay safe.
Until next time,
Your SZW Team
SZW Insurance is your New Hartford area Trusted Choice™ independent insurance agent. Call us for a quote on insurance for your home, car, business, or life at 315.792.0000. Or request a quote here.