Grand Rapids Roofing: Article About Snow
Preparing a home for winter will fill up a "to do" list quickly, but few of those tasks are as important as preparing a roof for snow and ice storms to come. While most roofs get through winter storms just fine, homeowners should know how ready a roof is to handle snow load, how to calculate the weight of the snow and when to call in an experienced Grand Rapids roofing expert to handle the problem.
Snow can be heavy, and ice and standing water are even heavier. The weight of snow depends on its water content by volume; the higher the percentage of water content, the heavier the snow. Short of actually weighing one cubic foot of snow from the roof, homeowners can't really know just how heavy their roof's snow load is, but they can estimate based on a few factors.
At just 5 percent water content, light, fluffy snow weighs about 3.5 pounds per square foot, but at its wettest, 33 percent water content, snow can weigh 20.81 pounds per square foot. Ice is a substantial 57.25 pounds per square foot and water is 62.43 pounds per square foot.
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To evaluate the roof's readiness for the cold season, homeowners should have a roofer take a look at the roof before the first winter storm hits. While most local roofs are built to handle 35 to 40 pounds of snow load per square foot, any weak spots on the roof or structural issues will prevent the roof from handling even a normal load of snow and ice.
When snow falls, homeowners can calculate their roof's snow load using one of many automated snow load calculators online. Homeowners will need to know their roof's slope, exposure level, the terrain, roof venting and roof surface type. Or, homeowners can use a more general rule of thumb that snow weighs about 20 pounds per square foot, so a fresh snow drift of more than 18 inches should be removed. If snow has partially melted or rain has come between snow storms, the snow load could be far heavier than the general rule, and it should be removed immediately by a local roofer.
To help roofs better handle snow load, some homes may also have snow guards or cleats installed. Tech savvy homeowners might also consider installing an automated snow load sensor that monitors the roof's load. Whatever method of monitoring is chosen, homeowners should know that it's dangerous to try to remove the snow themselves. Calling in a professional is the safest solution.