10 Tips For Clearing Snow Off Your Roof

It's a nasty job, but someone's gotta do it.

The blizzard has stopped, the sky is clear, and now you have to clear some snow. Shoveling or snow-blowing your driveway is one thing. But clearing the snow off your roof can be a challenge.

West Hartford's forecast is for rain Monday – perhaps as much as a half inch –  so clearing the roof today so the gutters are clear is a good idea if you can accomplish it safely.

Here are some tips to read before you do.

1. Dress appropriately. Wear layers, so you can stay warm but also not have your movement impeded by overly thick clothing.

2. Wear sunglasses. You'll be looking up much of the time, and a clear winter sky after a snowstorm tends to have a very bright sun. Having sun-induced blind spots is never a good idea, especially when you're up on a ladder clearing snow.

3. Pick the right tool for the job. Don't use a tool that will damage your roof. You can start off with a snow rake (or roof rake). If you don't have one of those, a broom will work for lighter snow. Heavy wet and frozen snow will require something with more bite, like a roof razor, that leaves a layer of snow so as not to cut through the roof. Using a shovel is common, although it's also more likely to do damage.

4. Use a sturdy ladder. Climbing up to the roof by climbing on a deck or other structure is obviously a bad idea. Snow and ice will make any climbing difficult. A ladder should be used, and it should be a strong ladder with secure attachments to prevent it from collapsing. Also, make sure the ladder is dry and free of any ice or snow.

5. Plan carefully where to place your ladder. Make sure you don't position your ladder in the same spot where you're going to make the snow fall.

6. Place the ladder on flat secure ground. The last thing you want is for that ladder to topple over. Use a flat surface upon which to mount your ladder. And if you put the ladder on snow, make sure the bottom is pushed down through the snow and touching ground, so it doesn't shift while you're climbing it.

7. Pull the snow downward toward the edge of the roof. Then pull whatever you can off. The important part is that it is off the middle off the roof, where the weight of snow does the most damage.

8. Don't obsess. There is no need to get every bit of snow off your roof. If you can't reach a spot, don't worry. As long as most of the snow if off, it's fine. In fact, it's best to leave a thin layer of snow.

9. If you feel tired or winded, stop. Climb down the ladder and take a break. On top of a ladder is no place to get dizzy and light-headed.

10. Have someone else do it. Elderly people and people with certain medical situations should not be shoveling off a roof. Ask your doctor if you have any questions regarding your ability to do the job. If a family member or neighbor isn't around to do it, there are professionals who will do it.

“Dry, fluffy snow piled on roofs can quickly become a sponge that absorbs any sleet or rain,” said Rhode Island Emergency Management Agency Executive Director Theresa C. Murray. “Heavy, wet snow adds weight and stress to structures. Flat, commercial roofs are most susceptible, (if they are not draining properly) but buildings with slanted roofs are vulnerable too. In addition, roof ice dams can form, leading to water build-up that will cause interior damage.”


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