How to Safely Remove Snow from Your Roof


Substantial snowfall can pose serious dangers to a home’s roof. At the same time, improper removal techniques can pose serious dangers to homeowners, themselves. To protect your property and your personal well-being, learn the dos and don’ts of effective snow removal.

Snow can be a Serious Threat

Every year, countless American roofs collapse under the weight of snow. This can jeopardize the safety of occupants, while resulting in thousands of dollars in repairs. Unless it is damaged or decayed, the average roof should be able to support 20 pounds per square foot of snow without becoming stressed. That said, in its Snow Load Safety Guide, FEMA explains that numerous other factors can promote unexpected snow-induced structural failures. These include a roof’s slope, shape, construction, exposure to wind and maintenance. The type of snow can also impact risk, since wet, heavy snow can weigh as much as 21 pounds per square foot, compared to fresh, fluffy snow, which can weigh as little as three pounds per square foot.

Safe Snow Removal

Most of the time, it’s safer to hire a professional removal service to eliminate snow from your roof. If you are a committed do-it-yourselfer, however, consider the following tips provided by FEMA.

  • Don’t use any sort of mechanical removal equipment, or you may damage the roof membrane.
  • Don’t use picks or other sharp tools. Utilize a plastic shovel instead of a metal one.
  • Start by removing drifted snow at parapets, elevation changes and around equipment.
  • Next, remove snow from the center portion of the roof.
  • Prevent unbalanced snow loading by removing snow in the direction of the primary structural elements.
  • For gable and sloped roofs, remove snow beginning at the ridge and moving toward the eave.
  • Avoid stockpiling snow in any area of your roof.
  • Make sure to keep foot traffic away from ground-level locations where falling ice or snow could cause injuries.
  • Be prepared for snow to slide and stay a safe distance from the eave to be sure you’re well outside of sliding range.
  • Be sure you have cleared any and all ground-level equipment that could be damaged by falling snow or ice.
  • Be aware of rooftop hazards such as vent pipes, skylights or other objects buried by significant snowfall.

Should I Hire a Professional?

This depends on your roof and your personal experience. If you have an especially high, steep or awkward roof, your accident risk will be much higher. Likewise, if you are not accustomed to performing this type of work, you will be much more likely to fall.

Since accidents can lead to death or disabilities, it’s important to carefully evaluate the benefits and risks of do-it-yourself snow removal. If you have any doubts, go with a professional service to ensure both you and your property are safe and sound.

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