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Snow Damage to Your Roof? 5 Steps to Take Right Now

It’s easy to smile at the first snowfall. The fluffy white stuff reminds us that holiday celebrations are just around the corner. However, winter weather also comes with seasonal concerns, especially up on the roof.

Here in the northern part of the country, we understand how frozen precipitation can impact our homes and businesses. When too much snow accumulates on the roof, it turns into a serious and even dangerous situation.

The weather becomes less predictable every year, so you want to be prepared for the worst this winter. As Chicago’s leading water damage restoration company, we can help.

ServiceMaster by Zaba offers this in-depth look at everything you need to know about snow damage on the roof.

What Does Snow Do to a Roof?

damaged roof shingles due to snow

Can heavy snow damage your roof? The answer is a definite yes.

A roof’s slope is designed to shed rainwater and melting snow. Clogged gutters and ice dams interfere with this simple function. A blanket of snow on the roof makes both problems worse.

As the bottom layer of snow melts during the day, the runoff spills over blocked gutters and refreezes behind ice dams.

The results range from water dripping into attics, ceilings and walls to damaged shingles, flashing and underlayment.

Excessive snow buildup weakens beams, rafters and trusses. The structural damages can cause a roof collapse.

How to Know When There’s Too Much Snow on Your Roof

snow damage to roof

The snow on your roof won’t fit on a set of scales, but you can estimate its weight.

A fresh accumulation of 10 to 12 inches exerts 5 pounds of pressure per square foot. However, 3 to 5 inches of older, packed snow weighs about the same.

On roofs in good condition, 4 feet of fresh snow or 2 feet of compressed snow are considered maximum loads. Be on the lookout for these signs of heavy snow damage on the roof.

  • Loose shingles and flashing
  • Excess shingle granule loss
  • Sagging roof ridges and eaves
  • Creaking and cracking noises
  • Pipe leaks in the attic and lower floors

How to Repair Existing Snow Damage on Your Roof

Snow damage to the roof can’t be ignored, but repairing it isn’t always a DIY job. If you’re like most homeowners, you don’t have the necessary materials or tools. Winter weather complicates the work too.

The best way to repair a snow-damaged roof starts with an assessment and several phone calls.

1. Size Up the Snow Damage

Locate the damage by following visible clues. For example, water leaking down walls or dripping from ceilings may be signs of trouble on the roof.

Keep in mind that water runs downhill, so the roof damage may not be directly over affected interiors.

Check the roof for loose flashing, damaged vents or areas that appear caved in. Size up the situation by combining what you see on the roof with what you see inside the house.

2. Contact a Roofing Professional

If you know someone who recently had their roof repaired, ask about their experience. Talk with friends and family, and balance their input with independent online reviews of professional roofers near you.

Before you hire, ask a roofing company about their licensing, insurance and warranties. Confirm availability too. They may be busy repairing snow-damaged roofs in your area.

3. Tarp If You Have To

If the roofer can’t get to the job right away, you may want to temporarily tarp the roof. However, it’s usually a two-person project. Winter weather conditions can make the job dangerous.

If you’re not comfortable with this type of work, skip the step unless it’s absolutely necessary. Always put personal safety first, and only tarp the roof if you have to.

4. Call Your Insurance Company

Most homeowners insurance policies cover roof damage caused by snow and ice dams. Coverage usually includes water damages as well as a roof collapse resulting from a snow-damaged roof.

Contact your insurance company. Explain the situation, and arrange for an adjuster’s inspection. Don’t forget to document interior damages with photos and videos.

5. Call a Certified Water Damage Professional

Water leaking into your home from the damaged roof creates a new set of problems. Damp drywall begins to degrade, ceiling materials become unstable, and mold spreads through porous surfaces.

Call a certified restoration company that can quickly mitigate and remediate the damage.

If you’re in the Chicago area, our pros here at ServiceMaster by Lake Shore can clean and restore your water-damaged interiors and contents, and we’re available 24/7.

How to Prevent Snow From Damaging Your Roof

rake snow from roof

Prevention is always the best defense against snow damage on the roof. These simple routines help protect your roof and your home’s interiors from heavy winter snowfalls.

  • Rake excessive snow off the roof, being careful not to damage shingles.
  • Ventilate the attic so that it doesn’t release heat that causes snowmelts on the roof.
  • Replace old attic insulation to keep warm air from rising through the attic floor.
  • Reduce moist warm air in the attic by discharging exhaust fans to the outside.
  • Check gutters and downspouts for debris and clogs that interfere with roof drainage.
  • Inspect the roof before the first snowfall, and replace damaged shingles and flashing.
  • Consider installing heat cables in roof valleys to reduce the chance of ice dam formation.

Dealing With Water Damage From Snow on Your Roof? Our Chicago Pros Can Help!

We all keep an eye on the latest winter forecast, but you want to be prepared for the worst. It’s our goal to share information that helps you stay safe, especially during our coldest months.

If snow damage on your roof causes water damage to your home’s interiors, call us here at ServiceMaster of Lake Shore right away. Our certified technicians are at your service and at your doorstep within 90 minutes.

You can depend on us today and all year long for the best restoration services available: 312-707-8597


Does the pitch of a roof matter when it snows?

Roofs with a steep pitch allow melting snow to run off more quickly than those with lower slopes. Generally, a roof pitch of 1:12 is considered best for areas that routinely experience heavy snow.

How does ice on a roof cause damage?

When ice melts on a roof, the moisture penetrates shingles and underlayment. When it refreezes, the ice expands inside the materials, creating tiny holes and tears. Over time, the process can result in long-term roof damage.

Does homeowners insurance cover roof damage from snow?

Yes. Most policies cover damage to the roof from snow, ice and ice dams. You should also be covered for any resulting water damage to your home’s interiors and contents. Confirm policy details with your insurance agent.