Harsh winter weather is approaching, and your roof could be its victim.

6 ways to reinforce your roof’s resistance to winter weather

By: James Abbey, December 4, 2015

When cold temperatures blow and heavy snow comes pouring down, there’s no place like home for comfort and warmth. A home’s roof, on the other hand, has no place to hide. Arguably the most important part of the average residence – the value of which is factored into the typical mortgage quote – the roof is tasked with providing sufficient cover when conditions turn inclement.

For the most part, roofs hold up well under the weight of heavy snow. But during those seasons where Old Man Winter is especially harsh, roofs can give way, as evidenced last year across much of the nation. Some had to move, prompting prospective buyers to seek a mortgage estimate when repairs were done and affected homes were resold. Real estate investors will often pay cash for homes that may be sold by owners who sustained damage.

With the proper planning, however, you can ensure that your home’s roof is up to the task, reducing the risk of a collapse. The following are six ways you can reinforce your roof’s resilience to winter’s harsh effects, as recommended by the Insurance Institute for Business and Home Safety:

1. Assess snow situation
When conditions are cold, there’s less moisture in the air, so snow tends to be lighter. However, when temperatures are nearer to 32 degrees Fahrenheit, snow is usually wetter. That added water makes snow heavier, increasing the need of snow removal.

2. Determine weight of snow

“Anything more than 25 pounds of snow per square foot risks a roof collapse.”

It’s hard to pinpoint how much snow weighs at any given time. However, there is a way to estimate how much snow a roof can withstand. According to the Insurance Institute for Business and Home Safety, between 10 and 12 inches of fresh snow is equal to an inch of water, which translates to roughly 5 pounds per square foot of roof space. Packed snow – i.e. the kind the builds over time – is heavier, so between 3 and 5 inches weighs approximately 5 pounds per square foot of roof space. If there’s two feet or more of snow on the roof, it could be in the collapse danger zone. The heaviest kind of precipitation is ice. Just one inch of ice is the equivalent of one foot of fresh powder.

3. Purchase a roof rake
The best way to remove snow from your roof is with a roof rake. These are available at virtually any hardware or big box retailer – including The Home Depot, Walmart and Lowes – for as little as $40. Generally speaking, a roof is capable of withstanding 20 pounds of pressure per square foot of roof space. Anything more than this, though, and there’s an increased risk of a collapse.

4. Consider replacing roof
When is the last time your roof was replaced? Thanks to the enhanced quality of shingles, roofs have a longer lifespan than they used to. However, they aren’t impenetrable, and do wear down over time. If it’s been more than 20 years since you’ve replaced your shingles, you may want to think about having the roof replaced.

5. Clean out eavestroughs
Ice damming is another casualty of winter’s wrath. Ice damming occurs during the freezing and thawing cycle of the season. When conditions warm, snow and ice melts, sloping down a roof’s surface. But if the melting snow pools and the temperatures drop, the accumulated water refreezes, often leading to water damage when the mercury rises again. Be sure to clean out your eavestroughs and downspouts of leaves and debris so that this risk is avoided.

6. Add insulation

“90 percent of existing homes in the United States are underinsulated.”

Another way to reduce the potential of ice dams from forming is by increasing the amount of insulation installed in the attic. The warmer the underside of a roof is, the easier it is for snow and ice to melt. You may want to get a professional assessment to see if you are, in fact, using enough. According to the North American Insulation Manufacturers Association, 90 percent of existing homes are underinsulated.

Visit IBHS’ website for additional tips to help ensure your roof’s resilience this winter.