Key tips for roof snow removal

A man shoveling snow off of a roof
2 minute read  

Roofs are built to withstand a certain amount of accumulated snow. This is especially important in Canada, as our winters can bring many storms. But eventually, the scale can tip from an acceptable amount of snow to too much. When does that occur and what should you do about it? And what can happen if you don’t line up appropriate roof snow removal at the correct time?

Below, we outline why you, as an owner or lessee of property, should care about your responsibilities regarding snow removal, and how you can go about it.

Why is it necessary to remove snow from your roof?

If excess snow or ice accumulates on a roof, it can damage the structure and roof covering. It can also create ice dams, which prevent drainage of the roof covering. This, in turn, increases the risk of water infiltration. If enough snow or ice accumulates, it can prevent control and expansion joints from working properly. This is especially troublesome because joints are designed to allow materials to contract and expand in the winter.

But while roof snow removal is necessary, it’s not without its risks, including falling from heights, electrocution, and other risks to your health. Because of this, a certain level of expertise is required when clearing snow. We recommend calling qualified snow and ice removal professionals. Not only will a qualified company know the proper techniques, but it will have the equipment necessary to safely do the work too. To make sure your winter season runs as smoothly as possible, you could also sign a contract with a qualified company to remove your snow for the entire winter season. Ideally, you should sign this contract before winter starts.

If you still want to remove the snow yourself, it’s vital that safe work methods are used.

Roof snow removal tips:

  • As a general rule, it is advisable to remove snow and ice from a roof when their thickness exceeds 20 cm (8 in.).
  • Identify and then eliminate, or limit and control, any hazards.
  • Take necessary measures to ensure the safety of people walking near the building during snow removal operations. A safety perimeter is required to keep people at a safe distance.
  • Map the location of electrical installations and prepare to avoid them.
  • Use wood or plastic shovels, and stop at least 10 cm (4 in.) above the finished surface of the roof covering.
  • Avoid sharp tools (e.g. axes or picks) that may damage your roof. Use rubber mallets to break up ice.
  • Avoid using excessive heat (e.g. welding torches), which could damage the roof covering.
  • Be careful when using de-icing salt, which can accelerate corrosion of the roof’s metal components.
  • Ensure there is good water drainage.

What can you do to help winter-proof your roof?

To help prevent major damage, you can check for common signs of trouble before winter even hits. Some things to look out for are:

  • Cracks on interior or exterior walls
  • Warping of interior or exterior finishes
  • Doors jamming or rubbing against the frame
  • Conspicuous creaking noises
  • Buckling ceiling
  • Any other visible physical damage

If several of these signs are present, the building should be evacuated as soon as possible. Necessary measures should be taken to remove any snow, no matter how much has accumulated on the roof. If necessary, consult a structural engineer to verify whether the roof is in fact under mechanical stress caused by snow loads.

Make sure you’re covered

Despite your best efforts, something may still go wrong. That’s where a solid insurance policy comes in, so that you can rest easy knowing that you’re protected should you suffer a loss. Visit TruShield’s commercial property insurance page today and learn more about how we can help protect your business!

This blog is provided for information only and is not a substitute for professional advice. We make no representations or warranties regarding the accuracy or completeness of the information and will not be responsible for any loss arising out of reliance on the information. Terms, conditions and exclusions apply to coverage. See policy for details.