We received more calls requesting “snow removal from roofs” during of the last weeks of this past December, than in all the other years we’ve been in business combined! The Portland area just does not experience this type of weather very often.
With many snow or ice related leaks there is not much “repair to be done.” Typical roof leaks are commonly a result of loose or missing flashing, missing shingles/shakes/tiles exposing the underlayment or some blatant damage from falling branches. What usually occurs with snow or ice related leaks, however, is none of these but rather an ice dam causing water to be pushed upward under the outer roofing layers or over a flashing. This most often happens near the gutter line, one of the easiest areas for water to enter under the roof.
If it is a flat roof that is in danger of collapse, then some type of attempt should be considered if the roof is sound enough to be walked on and if appropriate safety measures can be followed (if hiring a contractor, make sure they are able to follow OSHA safety requirements while performing the work.) Most roofs, short of employing a hi-lift, cannot be safely accessed if any snow or ice is accumulated on it.
Often, but not always, a roof leak that occurs from ice damming will not reoccur under normal rain conditions.
Our instinct is to take immediate action, but much of the time, the best thing to do is simply grab a bucket and wait it out. Once the snow or ice is gone, you or a roofer may want to check whether there was a contributing factor to helping create the ice dam, such as a large moss build up. There are still those occurrences where there wasn’t much of a cause beyond how the snow or ice randomly built up during an uncharacteristically harsh storm.
Roofs are not the only area susceptible to severe winter damage. Gutters can be damaged or destroyed when either the weight of frozen water trapped inside of them or sheets of ice sliding off the roof tear them off. Fortunately, gutters do avail themselves more readily to preventative maintenance that will help avert some types of such damage. Clean, flowing gutters will always weigh less that full gutters. Less water will be in clean gutters at the freeze point, which reduces the frozen weight. Some types of gutter protection, namely cover or cap systems, can be susceptible to being torn off by icing just like the gutters they are supposed to protect. Systems that are polyethylene inserts, since they sit inside of the gutter, are not subject to such damage and also help keep the weight of the gutter lower.
Similar safety considerations need to be assessed with mid storm gutter maintenance – a ladder that is footed on a snowy or icy base, even if it is flat, is not a safe proposition. Interior house damage is never a happy occurrence but just remember: Damage to your own body’s interior is much worse. Always error on the side of your personal safety regardless of how frustrating it is to see your property damaged.