Here’s How Snow Can Damage Your Home (And How to Prevent It)

The top of a typical american home in winter.

There’s nothing cozier than sitting in your home on a snowy evening, watching the snowflakes drift down and blanket the landscape. But for homeowners, snow isn’t all hot drinks and scenic vistas — it’s also a potential risk for your home. Here’s how snow damage happens — and what you can do about it.

Snow Can Overload Your Roof

Snow damages your roof in several ways. While the most dramatic — snow overloading your roof and causing it to collapse — is scary, it’s very rare. According to the Insurance Institute for Business and Home Safety, it takes 4 feet of fresh snow (or 2 feet of old, compressed snow) to create enough weight to stress a roof, and in areas with heavy snow accumulation, your roof may be designed to handle greater weight. However, with increasingly unpredictable weather, you don’t want to take chances — particularly if your roof hasn’t been repaired in a while.

Solution: It’s always a good idea to get your roof inspected well before winter — particularly if you’re expecting unusually harsh weather. A qualified roofing contractor can spot leaks and structural problems, warn you of risks, and repair damage, even if the temperature has already started to drop.

Depending on the height of your roof, you may want to invest in a roof rake or roof razor. These tools have long, telescoping poles, which let you safely shovel snow off your roof from the ground.

If you can’t safely rake your roof or are worried it’s overloading, call a professional contractor immediately.

Ice Dams Can Damage Your Roof, Gutters and Home

Hanging icicles might look beautiful to you, but to your roofer, they look like trouble. That’s because they’re a sign of an ice dam — a buildup of ice along the eaves of your roof that can damage your gutters, work under your shingles, and leak into your house.

Ice dams are caused by uneven heat on your roof. If your attic is warm, it will melt snow near the middle of your roof. That snow flows down and refreezes at the eaves. When water freezes, it expands which can damage your shingles, open up cracks in your roof, and pry off your gutters.

Solution: There are three basic techniques to stop snow roof damage from ice dams: removing them manually, melting the ice, or preventing the heat from leaving your roof in the first place.

To fix ice dams manually, This Old House recommends two methods. One is to pull them off using a roof rake. This can be labor intensive, but it gets the job done. The second method is to fill pantyhose with deicer (calcium chloride) and lay it on the roof with the end hanging over the gutter with a long-handled tool. It can be finicky to get into position, but once you do the deicer will melt the ice dam and clear the ice from your gutters.

For a more permanent fix, you need to change the temperature of your roof. One way to do this is to attach a heated cable to the edge of your roof to melt the ice. Alternately, you can take measures to prevent heat from leaking out, including insulating your attic, adding steel flashing around your chimney and plugging leaks around cables and ventilation ducts. A home contractor can help you choose the best technique for your home and budget.

Snow Melt Can Flood Your Home

Sometimes the worst snow damage occurs when the temperature rises. Snow melt can leak through tiny cracks in your foundation, damaging your walls and flooding your basement. This problem can get worse over time, as repeated cycles of melting and refreezing add cracks to your foundation.

Solution: To preventing melting snow damage: you need to ensure good drainage and seal cracks. Your gutters should be clear and angled to direct meltwater away from your house and towards street drains. You should also ensure the grade around your house slopes away, so melting snow doesn’t flow towards your foundation. Shoveling snow away from your home can also reduce the risk of flooding.

Repairing and sealing your foundation can also help prevent or reduce flooding. Patch cracks with concrete caulk, then add masonry sealer to the surface of your foundation.

Keep Your House Safe From Snow Damage This Winter

When it comes to snow damage, prevention is key. Nu Look Home Design can help you prepare for winter, so you can spend less time worrying about ice dams and leaks, and more time sipping hot cocoa and watching the snow. Contact us at (855) 910-9710 or email us at info@nlhd.com to learn how we can winter-proof your home.

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