Ah, Minnesota winter. Love it, or hate it, there is truly nothing else like it. If there’s one thing that can make the bitter cold and dry winds feel tolerable, though, it is the beautiful snowfalls we get to see.
That said, no matter how beautiful it is, snow can be a hassle for homeowners to deal with. From excessive shoveling to icy walkways, you are probably familiar with lots of the challenges. However, it is possible that there is one struggle that you haven’t considered.
We’re talking about your roof. Sure, there are the typical winter roof hazards, such as:
- Ice dams
- Winter roof leaks
- Icicle formations
But have you ever thought about the weight of snow on your roof? Today, we’re doing the math and answering your question: how much snow can a roof hold before it becomes dangerous? Keep reading to find out.
Is Snow on the Roof Dangerous?
Snow is so pretty that it is hard to think of it as a hazard to your roof. However, excessive snow can cause huge problems for you and your home.
There are a couple of different dangers to letting too much snow build up on your roof. Here are some of the top problems homeowners face.
- Ice Dam Formations 🧊 – Ice dams are one of the most common winter roof problems out there. Ice dams form when warm air escapes from the roof and melts the fresh snow. As the melted snow travels down your roof, it refreezes and forms an ice dam, which traps melted water on your roof. While this can cause water damage even with light snow, tons of heavy wet snow increases your chances of water damage.
- Leaky Roof 💧 – While cold weather may not make you think of roof leaks in the way that a spring shower might, you may find that your roof is just as susceptible. After a heavy snowfall, it is a good idea to check your attic for signs of leaks. This may come in the form of condensation, frozen nails, or a regular, visible leak.
- Cave Ins 💥 – While uncommon, extremely heavy snowfall can lead to severe roof damage, including cave-ins or bent and cracked rafters.
3 Factors That Effect How Much Snow a Roof Can Hold
When it comes to determining how much snow your roof can hold before it becomes damaged, there are several factors that can affect that final calculation. Here are the top three things you should consider.
Not all snow is created equal. Fluffy snow can create a lot of volume while still weighing significantly less than other types of snow. Heavy wet snow, or packed snow, on the other hand, can be incredibly dense and much heavier than it looks.
2) Roof Material
Different roof materials are able to hold different amounts of weight. For example, a standard asphalt shingle roof can typically hold around 20 pounds per square foot. However, roofs made from slate shingles or metal are likely going to be able to hold significantly more weight.
3) Roof Design
The last factor that affects the strength of your roof is the roof design itself. There are several design strategies that can be implemented to increase the strength of your roof. Adding trusses or strengthening the existing trusses can help your roof handle all the snow that winter can bring.
Total Snow Load
In general, if your roof snow loads equal more than 20 pounds per square foot, you might want to pull out your roof shovel to avoid risking damage to your roof.
What Should I Watch For?
It’s all well and good to say 20 pounds per square foot is the limit for how much snow you want on your roof. But most of us aren’t going to lug our scales outside to measure. What does too much snow look like? And what are the warning signs that your roof snow load is too heavy? Here are some key things to watch out for.
- Do Some Math ➗ – By doing some research into how many inches of snow have fallen, you can create a rough estimate of how much weight is on your roof. In general, you’ll want to multiply the depth of snow by its density. For reference, fresh fluffy snow typically weighs 3.75 pounds per cubic foot, whereas wet snow can weigh closer to 46 pounds.
- Sagging Roof – Is your roof sagging in the middle? This is a clear sign that it is no longer able to support the weight of the snow.
- Ceiling Leaks – Ceiling leaks can also be indicative of an overload of snow. Be sure to take these leaks very seriously after a heavy snowfall.
- Cracks in Drywall – Are you noticing newfound cracks in your home’s drywall? While all new cracks should be taken seriously, we would pay special attention to cracks that are around your interior door frames. This could be a sign that your roof is nearing collapse.
Winter Roof Maintenance
Want to protect your roof after it snows? Here are some of the best things to do.
If you live in Minnesota, we can’t stress the importance of investing in a good-quality roof shovel. These specialized shovels are designed to help you remove snow from your roof while staying safe on the ground.
Fall Roof Inspections
Want to make sure that your roof is able to handle the snow? We recommend scheduling your annual roof inspection for the fall. That way, you will be able to make any necessary repairs before the weather turns cold.
Icicles may be pretty, but if they are forming, it is likely because an ice dam is as well. Knocking off any icicles and making sure that the gutter is free of ice, as well, will help to keep your roof strong.
Protect Your Roof With The Pros
Feeling nervous about your roof’s ability to take on the winter weather? Our team at Northface Construction can help. As Minnesota’s roof experts, we can help assess the strength of your roof and devise solutions to help it last all year long. Contact us today to receive a free quote!