snow covered roof

Our homes face a multitude of hazards across the winter season. Plummeting temperatures mean we rely on central heating more than at any other time of year, while icy paths make every step outside treacherous. One of the biggest problems homeowners can be forced to contend with is snow on the roof. This can cause a multitude of issues, and you may find yourself having to remove the snow urgently.

But how do you go about this, and how do I know when having snow on my roof becomes a more serious issue? These questions and more will be answered in our guide below.

What Are the Dangers of Snow on the Roof?

A number of incidents can occur when your roof has too much snow on it. Some of these can be highly dangerous, whereas others will just be a nuisance. However, snow on the roof can cause damage to your property in a number of ways, many of which you may not realise until it’s too late.

The first danger is clogged gutters, which can cause water to overflow as the snow melts. A bit of excess water can be a nuisance, but not dealing with the issue quickly can lead to serious damage. This is both to your guttering system and other parts of your property such as cracks in mortar, or old windows.

Excess snow on the roof can place the structure under undue stress, which can cause a total collapse of the roof in extreme circumstances. This of course, is a catastrophic scenario that will not only be incredibly expensive to put right, but could threaten the safety of you, your family, and your belongings.

Should I Call A Professional?

Whether or not you need to call for professional help depends on you, and your situation. If the weather is particularly severe, a professional may not be able to reach you, and will only be able to provide advice and answer questions you may have. However, if you feel that the situation is urgent, such as the structure of your roof being significantly compromised, you should absolutely seek expert help and advice.

How Do I Know There Is Too Much Snow on the Roof?

There are a few things to bear in mind when inspecting a snow-covered roof. Remember that if your roof’s pitch is especially steep, it’s less likely to suffer beneath snow unless conditions are particularly extreme. If you live in an older property, or your home features flat roofs, it may be more urgent for you to remove snow from the roof in good time.

If your roof features solar panels, roof windows, chimneys, or aerials, these should be cleared where possible, as they are especially fragile and vulnerable when snow builds up. There are multiple ways to check your roof has too much snow on it, such as:

  • Sagging ceiling boards: A ceiling sagging under the pressure of weight above is a sure sign your roof is carrying more than it can handle. If the boards, beams, or any other part of your ceiling appear to be drooping, it’s a warning that something is wrong. Outside of heavy snow fall, this could indicate the beams are old and need replacing, or that they’re suffering from rot.
  • Strange noises: If you hear strange noises coming from above, particularly creaking, this could mean that the beams and rafters in your roof space are under excessive pressure, and may be starting to get damaged. If these areas of your roof are visible in the loft, it’s absolutely vital to check their condition. Pay close attention and look out for cracks or other obvious signs of wear.
  • Cracks in the walls and roof: A roof doesn’t collapse all at once, and many of the warning signs won’t just be apparent in your roof space. If you begin to see cracks and crevices appearing in your walls, then the structure above is suffering under excess weight, and it may be time to act and remove snow from your roof.
  • Roof leaks: Another clear sign that you need to take action is a leaking roof. A roof covered with too much snow will become warped and cracked, allowing snow to drift into interior components of your roof space. As the snow melts, it can leak into the spaces below. Whether you’re dealing with snow on the roof during the winter season or not, it’s vital to find and fix roof leaks as soon as you can.
  • Doors and windows: Are your doors and windows not shutting into their frames properly, or are you perhaps struggling to open them? Whilst this is more commonly due to the cold weather, it could be a sign that the frames have become warped, excessively strained by the weight on snow on the roof above.

What Can I Do About Snow on My Roof?

There are a few steps you should take to remove snow from your roof, but whether or not it’s safe to do so depends on the conditions outside. With snow, comes ice, and getting up onto your roof can be hazardous even in the sunshine. As previously mentioned, houses with steep-pitched roofs are rarely under threat from snow on the roof, but if your roof’s slope is gentler, or your home features a flat roofed garage for example, you may need to act.

  • Wait out the cold: It may be necessary to wait out the cold, and the worst of the weather before you try to deal with any excess snow on your roof. This is because trying to work at height under icy conditions is extremely risky. Thankfully here in the UK, snow doesn’t often present enough of a hazard to risk removal, and will rarely stick around for longer than a week after it fell.
  • Rake the snow off: One of the best ways to get rid of snow on your roof is to use a rake or shovel to drag it off onto the ground. There are specially made snow rakes for this task, which mean you can undertake the job at ground level, which is far safer than climbing a ladder or getting onto your roof. If removing snow from your roof will require working at height, we’d recommend seriously considering calling a professional.
  • Heating cables: There are special heating cables that can be installed on roofs to melt snow and prevent “ice damming”. Ice damming is when ice lines the edges of your roof and guttering, which will prevent snow from sliding off. This can result in serious damage to your roof and guttering system. Due to the heat these generate, they are not suitable for roofs made from combustible materials. Do ensure that they are safe for use on your roof before you purchase and install heating cables.

Conclusion

These are the main ways to combat snow on the roof. Overall, thanks to the mild nature of even the harshest winters in Britain, it is often safest to let nature take its course and melt the snow away. Alternatively, using a snow rake to clear your roof from ground level is your best option as a homeowner, before calling a professional may be necessary.

For more information on getting your home ready for winter, or dealing with what the cold weather brings, take a look at our blog on preparing your home for winter.