Whether you're just moving into a region that sees a lot of snow in winter, or if you've grown up in one but are now buying your first house (and are thus now the one responsible for monitoring your roof), you need to know about snow load and roof rakes. Roofs and houses are built to hold a certain weight of snow and ice, and if too much sits on the roof, it could cause the roof to collapse. You may hear some advice about never removing snow from the roof or treating city pleas to remove the snow as unnecessary panic, but as residents of southern Idaho can tell you, the risk of collapse is very real. Avoid this problem with a handy roof rake -- but learn about the ins and outs of using one first.
Roofs Have Different Weight Limits
Roofs on houses are constructed to hold a certain amount of weight, which can vary depending on region. A very snowy area is likely to have roofs that can hold quite a bit of snow (plus those roofs will have steeper pitches to facilitate the snow sliding off), while an area that doesn't normally see a lot of snow may have lower weight limits. That was the problem in Idaho, where they had received an abnormally large amount of snow while temperatures remained below freezing in an area that normally sees a lot less of the white stuff. More homes in the area had flat roofs, too.
So your first task is to find out what the roof is rated for. This figure will be in pounds per square foot. When it snows, pay attention to how thick the snow is on your roof. For every 1-inch-thick layer of snow that covers 1 square foot, assume that's 1 pound. As more falls, though, adjust the amount to cover a little more weight -- the older layers of snow will compact, increasing the weight per square foot because there will be less air in that layer.
Upper Floors Call for Professional Help
Roof rakes do well for one-story homes where you can stay on the ground. They don't work so well on stories higher than that because the rake, assuming you have extenders, becomes difficult to hold and control (and past two stories, you're just not going to reach those without a ladder, which brings its own dangers given how much you'll have to move around to pull down the snow). Use the rake on lower eaves and overhangs, but call in a professional roofing company to handle the upper stories.
Your Roof Has Boobytraps
Your roof might look nice and smooth to you, but it's not. It may have granules, if the roof uses asphalt shingles, and gutters and other bits and pieces can snag the rake. Look for a rake that has rollers to help it move with less of a scraping motion, and always learn what your roof looks like in all areas before the snow starts falling.
You Need to Inspect the Roof Before Snow Season
No matter how many other times during the year you get the roof inspected, have a company take a look before the winter. That will alert you to potential trouble spots before you start dragging that roof rake through the snow. Start contacting roofing companies now, like Ray's Harford Home Improvement Contractors Inc. Don't wait for snow to build before you get someone there to check out the roof.