Don’t Wait Until It's Too Late: Roof Snow Removal

Many Requests for Roof Snow Removal in Ottawa this Year!
Article Source: Ottawa Citizen, January 9, 2013.

The volume of snow dumped in the Ottawa region—about 75 centimetres so far in some areas—has caused huge build-up of snow and ice to form on rooftops and garages.

“We’re getting a large wave of calls (from homeowners) for roof snow removal. It’s been the busiest since 2008,” said Don Mann, owner of Sanderson Roofing in Ottawa. Sanderson Roofing has about 25 employees working almost non-stop clearing snow off rooftops since the recent snowfalls.

Sanderson Roofing charges $250 for about an hour’s work for a two-man crew to clear off snow from an average-size roof. Contact Sanderson Roofing today at (613) 233-9369 to schedule an appointment to safely clear the snow off your roof.

“Once you get a large volume of snow and you get a thaw, then you get ice-damming. A dam of ice forms at the eave of a shingled roof and prevents the melting snow from running off the roof. It ponds at the edge of the roof and tends to force it’s way back up under the shingles. And that’s what causes the leaks,” he said.

Mann said most newer homes have a waterproof membrane under the shingles that can prevent the leaks. But in older homes, where usually there’s a lack of proper insulation, ice-damming happens more often, he said.

Mann said it’s a good idea to walk around the perimeter of your home and inspect it for big buildups of ice at the edge of the roof. Most homeowners will see big piles of snow on their roof, but more problematic is the ice that forms underneath, he said.

“Sometimes you have to put a ladder up and just clear some snow off to see if you have ice or not,” said Mann.

Some people will buy an elongated roof rake and clear off the snow themselves. But homeowners should be careful when clearing snow or the long icicles at the edge of the roof, he said.

“Icicles are not necessarily an indication of a problem. They’re only a problem if they fall on you or on your car. They’re just an indication of snow melting up further on the roof, running down and forming icicles at the edge,” said Mann.

The warmer temperatures will be a big concern for homeowners, said Environment Canada’s senior climatologist David Phillips.

But icicles shouldn’t be a big problem this week as temperatures are possibly reaching record highs and causing a big meltdown. Friday’s forecast daytime temperature is five degrees and on Saturday it’s expected to hit nine degrees, which would surpass the high of 5.6 degrees set on the same day in 1932.

The warmer temperatures will be a big concern for homeowners, said Environment Canada’s senior climatologist David Phillips.

“There will be melting and freezing, and that’s bad for roofs,” he said. “And for (Wednesday), we’re calling for the possibility of rain showers and that just adds a huge amount of loading, but it also helps to melt some of that snow. But then it freezes at night.”

That ongoing “freeze-thaw” scenario that is expected to occur Friday and Saturday will play havoc with shingles and could cause leaks in homes, he said.

“What you’re going to see because of that is round-the-clock melting,” he said.

“Clearly, the stress on roofs will be not because just of snow loads. It will be because of this melting-thawing kind of situation. If you were dealing with not a lot of snow right now, it wouldn’t be an issue. But you’re dealing with a significant amount through several days of snowing and then holding it,” said Phillips.

Phil Bottriel, a home inspector and engineer, said homeowners should consider removing some of the snow from the roof if possible.

“It’s not so much the loading that’s a problem. It’s that we have so much snow on our roofs so early in the year. If there is any opportunity to remove snow now without damaging the roof then you are far better off to do that. If we get more snow you’re obviously ahead of the game,” said Bottriel.

He said light, fluffy snow is easier to remove than when it becomes hard and compacted. He said most roofs have about three feet of snow and the maximum load is about five feet.

“With a thaw a lot of times the snow melts down and turns to ice but it doesn’t necessarily leave the roof. Ten inches of snow is the same as about one inch of water, so if you start to get three, four or five inches of ice on your roof you’re getting into a problem. It’s the ice that’s the problem, so if you have big icicles you should try and get those removed,” said Bottriel.

He recommends using a roof rake to remove the snow or throw salt pucks onto your roof to melt the snow and break up ice dams, he said.

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