At the end of summer, we prepare our gutters for the fallen leaves of autumn. Many weekends are spent emptying leaves from the downspout and raking up debris. Before we know it, winter is on its way and homeowners are checking their roofs for damage. You may think that once the first snowfall hits, these maintenance tasks are unnecessary until spring. Yet, it’s important to keep an eye on the structure of your home throughout the cold months.

What should you know about winter roof and gutter protection?

Removing Snow From the Roof

According to the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), one foot of fresh snow ranges from three pounds per square foot for light snow to 21 pounds per square foot for heavy snow. This amount of pressure greatly increases the risk of a roof cave-in or leak.

While removing snow too soon can be a waste of time and energy if the flakes continue to fall, waiting too long could lead to serious damage. As a general rule, plan to get out the roof rake or shovel after six inches of snow have fallen.

What are the best methods for removing different types of snow?

  • Roof rakes should be used to remove lighter, dry snow.
  • Shovels should be used to remove wet, heavier snow.

Applying too much pressure with a roof rake to remove saturated or ice-covered snow can result in punctured or damaged shingles. On the other hand, a metal shovel can also scratch and penetrate the roof. Choose a plastic shovel to keep your roof in good condition when removing heavy snow. Always use a safety harness, work in groups or call a professional.

Preventing Gutter Ice Dams

Did you know one cubic foot of ice weighs about 57 pounds? Not only does this mass put undue stress on your roof, the added pressure can wreak havoc on a home’s gutters.

The result is ice dams, which form on the edge of a roof and prevent runoff from the gutter. When the drainage of any debris or melting snow is blocked, excess weight is added to the gutters. Consequently, they may start to pull away from the home and eventually detach.

The Bottom Line

Gutters help direct water away from the foundation, while roofs are the structural integrity of our homes. When they are both well-maintained in winter, homeowners can worry less about irreparable damage when warmer weather arrives. Whether we see a few inches or a full-on Nor’easter, clear away precipitation from the roof and gutters in a timely manner throughout winter.


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