how much snow can a roof hold

A severe blizzard can have winds of up to 35 miles per hour!

Now think of your roof encountering fifteen feet of pure white snow combined with this wind and ice! Scary isn’t it?

You may be wondering if your roof can handle it. When it comes to how much snow a roof can hold and how to protect your roof during the winter season, the age-old proverb “Prevention is better than cure” holds true.

It seems as though there is a winter storm every week. So you might wonder, “How much snow can a roof hold?” You can find the answer to that question, as well as some tips for protecting your roof during the winter, in this article.

Let’s Talk About Quick Melt

When it snows, heat from your home can radiate to the roof which causes the snow on the roof to “quick melt”. As the melted snow begins to flow, it freezes again. This refreeze can be damaging to your roof as it can seep through the roofing materials and cause leaking and other water damages.

This melted snow can also flow into gutters and refreeze, causing gutter collapse or blockage. Also, the melted ice can form ice dams, which are large chunks of refreezing ice that gather along rooflines. Ice dams prevent the “quick melt” from draining off the roof and this can cause leakage through the roof.

Preparing for Winter

When installing a new roof or fixing an old one, you can prepare for the winter season by running an ice and water barrier on the roof. Do this 3 to 6 ft. from the roof’s edge.

The ice and water barrier is a form of sealant that sticks to the roof decking and makes it waterproof. You would then add the shingle on top of it. Ensure that you follow the region-specific guidelines for installing ice and water barriers.

In preparation for winter, carefully inspect gutters and downspouts. Remove any debris that could cause them to get clogged.

Make routine cleaning of these areas a priority. Once the snow starts, you should ensure they are clear of snow and ice. This enables healthy draining as the snow and ice start to melt.

Do Inspections During Winter

During the winter season, do an inspection of your roof to see if there is an excessive amount of ice. This can be done by yourself or with the help of a licensed roof inspector.

Do this to ensure that there are no damages to the roofing materials (shingles, flashings, skylights), that could possibly facilitate leaks. It is important to note is that wet snow is heavier than dry snow.

This means that if there is a huge accumulation of wet snow, you may need to request that a roofer removes some of the snow or you may do so yourself if you are capable. You can use an ice dam prevention snow rake to rake the snow off.

Raking the snow off will prevent it from melting and forming an ice dam. Ensure that you do not destroy the shingles during the process, as they become more brittle during colder weather.

If your roof is flat and easily accessible, you may try shoveling the snow off, knocking the ice dam off with a rake or cutting through the ice so that the standing water may drain off. If you want to, you can put some calcium chloride ice melt into a nylon filling and place it in a vertical position across the dam. This will cause a channel to melt out in the dam.

Preventing the Damage

For more long term roof protection, consider installing heat cables. Ensure that you install them in ideal areas where ice dams are prone to be.

Also, ensure that you take caution when routing the ice melt away so that it doesn’t refreeze along the roof edge or in the gutters. You will need to run heat cables inside downspouts too so that they do not get clogged by the ice.

Another thing you should do is to keep your roof cold by closing the attic bypasses. Closing attic bypasses prevent heat from going into the attic through air leaks.

When the heat goes into the attic it aids in melting the ice which can form dams. Ensure that the attic is thoroughly inspected for air leaks and that these areas are sealed properly.

You may hire a professional to insulate the attic or you may do it yourself if possible. Always check the insulation level and ensure that it is in line with what the building code outlines. 

While a key part of preventing ice dams is to keep the attic and roof cold, bear in mind that some roofs make it easier to prevent ice dams than others. Roofs with skylights, no attics, angled ceilings, and low slopes, are more difficult to vent and may require the services of a professional.

Finally, How Much Snow Can a Roof Hold –Literally?

The amount of snow remaining on your roof may vary based on whether there was a large amount of wet snow, the age of the roof, the type of roof and the overall condition of the roofing.

So, how much snow can a roof hold? Think of it this way, if there is more than a foot of snow and ice on the roof, try to remove it as soon as possible.

Always remember that the cost of snow removal is significantly less than that of repairing roof damages or damages to the interior of the property caused by ice dams and leaks. Always be proactive.

Even though winter doesn’t last forever, you should always maintain your roof and implement preventative measures to protect it during the winter season. Prevention should be done before winter. If you have a busy schedule, set reminders on your devices so that you can remember to inspect your roof ahead of time.

If you do this when winter rolls around you won’t be too concerned about how much snow your roof can hold because you will be prepared.

If you would like professional roofing help, please contact us.

About Denver Reese

Co-Owner Graduate of Evansville High School 1994 Union Carpenter for Statz and Harrop 94-96 Trim Carpenter for C.M. Trim 97-2000 Self-employed trim carpenter 2000-2002 Started Double D Builders in 2002