March 19, 2014

Editorial: Keep an eye on your roof

The North Country has seen record amounts of snow, ice and sub-zero temperatures this winter, but a warm-up is forecast for the latter part of this week.

Good news. But the bad news is that it could pose a serious risk to roofs that are already feeling the weight of winter snow.

Snow accumulation on buildings can result in more than just loss of electrical power or wear on the roof. Buildings may be at risk of collapsing if basic preventative steps aren’t taken.

According to the Insurance Institute for Business & Home Safety, there are steps to determine the risks to your roof, how to address those risks and how to identify possible warning signs that your roof is under too much stress:

• Estimate how much weight your roof can support. Unless the roof structure is damaged or decayed, most residential roofs, regardless of the location of the house, should be able to support 20 pounds per square foot of snow before they become stressed.

In some areas of the Northeast, the amount of snow your roof was designed to handle before being damaged may be considerably higher than other locations. Check with your building department to find out if your home was built at a time when homes were designed to withstand higher amounts of snow.

• Estimate how much the snow on your roof weighs. For fresh snow, 10 inches — 1 foot of new snow — is equal to 1 inch of water, or about 5 pounds per square foot of roof space, so you could have up to 4 feet of new snow before the roof will become stressed. For packed snow, 3 to 5 inches of old snow is equal to 1 inch of water, or about 5 pounds per square foot of roof space. Any more than 2 feet of old snow could be too much for your roof to handle. One inch of ice equals 1 foot of fresh snow.

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