Snow gathering on your roof isn't a picturesque addition—it's a problem that could cause water to leak under your shingles, or it could cause the structure to become damaged and potentially collapse. You might think that it's as simple as buying one of the roof rakes sold in home improvement stores and heading out after each snow fall to dutifully clear your roof. However, these tools are widely misunderstood, and those misunderstandings can lead to a damaged roof.
They're Designed for Flat Roofs
Roof rakes are designed for protecting roofs, and they have been on the market for a few decades now. However, they were originally designed for use on flat roofs. A flat roof is still slightly sloped, but it lacks the slope to shed snow as it falls like a sloped roof should. The original roof rakes were marketed to the owners of flat and low-slope roofs so they could remove snow as it builds up so the weight doesn't cause the rafters or trusses to collapse.
There are roof rakes sold for use on sloped roofs, but they're not as widely tested and are not widely recommended by roofing professionals. Using a flat roof rake on a sloped structure also has a chance to cause damage to the shingles.
It's Possible to Damage Your Shingles
Regardless of the type of roof rake you use, if you're using the tool on a sloped roof, there's a chance you could scrape the surface of your shingles or even tear off entire pieces of roofing. This is true whether you have asphalt, wood, stone, tile, or layered roofing. Metal roofs don't usually suffer from snow build-up, but they can generally handle raking if there is some heavy snow fall. If you have to rake a shingled roof because there's no alternative, you should leave a two to three inch layer of snow behind rather than trying to hit the surface to avoid damage.
There's a Safety Risk
Any technique you use to remove snow on your own has a chance of hurting you, a family member, or a neighbor. Falling packs of snow can also damage trees, your vehicle, or the roof itself. Rakes are particularly risky because it's very easy to pull a large and heavy section of snow and ice down on yourself as you pull the rake across or down the roof. Many authorities recommend hiring professional snow removal services to protect both you and your roof from these kinds of risks.
You Need a Plastic Edge
Roof rakes made from metal may look more durable, and it's fine if the body and handle are made from these kinds of materials. But all roof rake edges should be made from plastic, rubber, or another softer material that has a reduced chance of damaging the roofing material. Check the edge of the rake every time you use it, and don't use the rake if you find some of the edge has worn away or broken off.
There Are More Permanent Fixes
Raking is normal for a flat roof, but it's only an emergency treatment for a sloped roof. Sloped roofs should shed ice and snow naturally as they warm and cool. Ice dams form because part of the roof is too warm. Symptoms of an ice dam include heavy and large icicle accumulation, lasting patches of snow, and visible water dripping from around a snow pack. This allows water to start melting while the colder edges are still frozen to form a dam that prevents the water from shedding away. Insulating your attic and preventing heat from escaping into it is a far better solution than committing to raking your roof after every snow fall.
For additional advice, contact a roofing contractor at a company like A & A Roofing Company Inc.