When Should You Remove Snow From Your Roof?

Meg Scanlon
Written by Meg Scanlon
Reviewed by Eric Gonzalez
Updated February 4, 2022
Two brothers playing with snow in front of their house
Photo: Cavan Images/Cavan / Getty Images

A winter wonderland looks great in your yard—but it’s not always as wonderful on your roof

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A dusting of snow can be a beautiful sight and make you feel like you’re living in a winter wonderland. After a mild snowfall, snow and ice will often melt and clear themselves, requiring no additional work from you. However, if you have a heavier snowfall and you’re concerned about your roof, you may want to take some steps to remove the snow. 

When Should You Remove Snow From Your Roof?

Before you break out your snow boots and ladder, keep in mind that snow and ice removal is a potentially dangerous task that’s best left to a pro. From slipping to major falls, wouldn’t it be better to stay safely on the ground sipping hot cocoa while an expert handles snow removal for you?

There are several occasions where removing snow from your roof is recommended:

  • Remove snow from your roof if you have 6 inches or more of snow because ice dams could form at this depth. If you notice ice dams on your roof after a snowfall, it is best to remove them to protect your roof and home.

  • If you experience a significant snowstorm of 2 or more feet of snow, your roof may not be able to hold it. Wet snow and ice are heavy and can put pressure on the roof. If there is too much pressure, this can cause damage to the roof or, in extreme cases, collapse. 

  • Remove snow from flat roofs, such as on porches and sunrooms, as they are more prone to damage and collapse since they do not clear as fast as a pitched roof. 

How Pros Remove Snow From Your Roof

When you have determined that you should remove snow from your roof, it’s time to call in the experts. Pros typically work in teams. They climb onto the roof to clear the snow away and use steam or a hammer to break and remove any ice. A good contractor will find the source of an ice dam and propose a fix. The ice dam may stem from poor attic insulation and ventilation. However, an attic bypass is the primary cause of many ice dams. Bypasses are hidden passages that allow warm air to flow into attics and melt snow on a roof, which then freezes.

An annual snow removal contract will cost, on average, $350 to $450.

Is It Dangerous to DIY Snow Removal From Your Roof?

A house covered with snow on a sunny winter day
Photo: Perry Mastrovito/Image Source via Getty Images

It is extremely dangerous to remove snow yourself on the roof. Never climb up on the roof and shovel the snow yourself, as you could risk falling off the slippery roof and seriously injuring yourself. Also, avoid climbing on a ladder with snow and ice because you could easily lose your balance and fall and hurt yourself. 

Also, if you have any heart conditions or back issues, do not attempt to clear any snow, as this can be strenuous and hazardous to your health. If you have snow that you cannot reach from the ground with a roof rake, then hire a professional.

Should You Remove Icicles From Your Home?

Icicles hanging from the roof, porch, or doorway can be a safety hazard as they are very sharp and can injure people if they fall off and hit someone. For this reason, remove any icicles where people will walk by gently knocking them down with a broom, shovel, or roof rake. Do not stand on a ladder to remove them.

What Are Ice Dams, and How Can You Prevent Them?

Ice dams can be a reason for concern, so it is important to understand what causes them. After a heavy snowfall, snow begins to melt on the roof because of hot air rising. However, before this melted snow and ice reaches the gutters or edges of the roof, it quickly refreezes at the eaves. 

Ice Dams create a blockage preventing snow from higher on the roof from getting to the gutters. 

Ice dams can cause standing water to get stuck on your roof and can get below the shingles. This standing water can cause leaks and damage to both your roof and potentially inside your house as well. The water can damage the ceiling, walls, and insulation inside your home leading to mildew and mold in the home. 

Here are a few ways to prevent and remove ice dams: 

Use a Roof Rake to Remove Ice Dams

Roof rakes allow you to stand on the ground and use an adjustable pole to reach high up. The blade attaches to the pole and is able to catch and slide the snow off the roof. A roof rake can help remove ice dams and is compatible with most two-story houses. Be sure you are standing on snow that is not icy or slippery to avoid injury. 

Install a De-Icing System

If you live in an area with harsh winters and frequent heavy snowfall, you may want to invest in installing a de-icing system. These systems can be installed on noncombustible shingles and are compatible with most asphalt shingles. 

A de-icing system can be compatible with most metal roofs, but be sure to get a specifically-made model for metal roofs. Check with a professional to see if this is a safe choice for your roofing material, and if so, which system works best for your home. 

Homeowners should be aware that de-icing systems need to be installed prior to any snowfall, not when snow is already on your roof. Have it professionally installed in the spring, summer, or fall and before any anticipated snow. 

Since installation requires being on the roof with ladders and specific knowledge about optimal placement for the cables and roofing material, only a professional can install them. A de-icing system needs an outdoor GFCI electrical outlet that an electrician can install if you do not already have one. 

The system consists of de-icing cables attached to the roof on the eaves and often in the gutters. The cables heat up and keep the melted snow from freezing again before reaching the gutters and drainage system. The heated cables prevent and melt ice dams. 

A de-icing system will increase your monthly energy bill since they require a lot of electricity to generate heat. Some systems self-regulate and adjust to the current outdoor temperature to help conserve energy. Once warmer weather arrives, unplug the system, but the system can be left up year-round once installed. 

Another method of lowering your energy consumption is installing solar panels. Once part of the panel is exposed to the sun, heat will slowly spread throughout the panel and begin to melt the snow or ice. Many roofing contractors are adopting solar solutions, so contact a local roofing or solar contractor for more information.

Hire a Professional to Remove Snow From Your Roof Safely

Now that you know when to remove snow from your roof, you can keep an educated eye on the situation. Snow removal can be left to professionals if you cannot remove it yourself with a roof rake. You may also want to use a professional since they have special equipment and skills. Find a snow removal service near you.  

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