Being snowed in for a day or so can be fun—with the proper supplies on hand, of course—but it doesn’t take long for the reality of the situation to set in. Just like any other type of extreme weather, snow can do a lot of damage. Large amounts of accumulated snow can cause ice dams and serious structural problems. Before you bundle up and go outside, however, keep reading for our roof snow removal tips.

1. Know when rooftop snow removal is necessary.

Before you decide how to remove snow from your roof, first determine whether you need to do anything at all. Keep in mind that building codes require roofs to be designed and constructed to withstand a significant amount of weight from snow. It is unlikely that an average—or even a little above average—snowfall will cause your roof to collapse. Seeing a significant accumulation of snow on your roof is unnerving, but the weight of snow matters more than the depth. Dry, powdery snow weighs far less than heavy, wet snow. Watch your local forecast to get details about expected snowfall amounts and what kind of snow you might encounter. When in doubt, pick up a shovelful or two from the ground—the kind of snow you’re dealing with will be quickly apparent.

2. Use the right roof snow removal tool.

snow rake removing snow from roof

Most experts recommend removing snow with a roof rake, only resorting to a shovel in cases of large amounts of heavy, wet snow or snow that has hardened onto the roof. Snow rakes allow you to clear snow from your home’s roof without climbing a ladder. This works especially well if your home is one story, but most rakes also have an option to add an extension pole to help you reach the overhangs of a two-story roof. If, however, your area has been hit with lots of wet snow in a short period of time, a roof rake may not be sufficient. In those cases, contacting a professional to shovel your roof will likely be the best option.

3. Use the proper technique.

Your roof is designed to withstand plenty of severe weather, but it isn’t completely immune to damage. Using the wrong tool or using the right tool improperly can damage shingles, opening up your roof to a host of other problems. Make sure that the roof rake you choose has small wheels or a bumper to keep it from scraping the shingles. If you can’t find one, choose a plastic rake or shovel—it will be less likely to cause damage than a metal option. Work from the roof overhangs up toward the peak of the roof, clearing about a foot of snow at a time. If you try to clear too much in one pass, you’ll risk packing the snow, which makes it heavier and more difficult to remove.

4. Leave the ladder in the garage.

isolated wooden ladder standing up

Perhaps the most important tip is to stay off the roof. Experts agree that getting up on a snow-covered and potentially icy rooftop without the proper safety training and equipment is a terrible idea.

In most cases, snow on your roof isn’t a crisis, but it is a good idea to try to keep accumulation to a minimum. Remove what you can with a roof snow rake. Focus your efforts on the roof’s overhangs—also called eaves—to lessen the risk of ice dams forming. If your roof is too high or too intricate to rake from the ground, don’t try to take on the job yourself. Professionals have the proper tools and safety equipment to clear a snow-covered roof safely and quickly.

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