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How to Safely Shovel Snow Off Your Roof

By: Jessica Ackerman

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Snow can be a roof's worst enemy.  The weight of inches or feet of snow on even the sturdiest roof can cause structural or leakage problems.  One of the biggest problems is when the snow melts a little and then re-freezes.  This melting and re-freezing causes ice to form on the top of the snow pack, creating even more weight.  If you do not get the heavy weight of the snow off a flat roof before the melting and freezing occurs, you could wind up having your roof and the ice in your living room.  While it is important to get the snow off the roof, it is equally as important to do it safely.

Safety First
Before you break out the ladder or climb out the window onto your roof, evaluate the situation.  If the roof is steep or angled even slightly, it is best to not get out onto it.  Your family would much rather replace a roof that has caved in than replace you.  If you determine that your roof is stable and flat and you feel comfortable enough walking out onto it, follow the steps below.

Proper Dress
Make no mistake, the air is going to be cold and the snow is going to be even colder when you step out onto your roof.  Wear, thick-soled insulated boots with gripping bottoms, and warm clothing that keeps you dry, but that also gives you a wide range of motion.  You do not want to end up out on the roof and not be able to get around easily.  Gloves, a scarf and a hat are also a must.

Safety Rope
You may feel a bit silly strapping a safety rope to your clothes and the interior of the house, but should you slip and fall, you will be ever so thankful that you had it.  A safety rope, such as they use in rock climbing, is ideal.  Hook the rope to a safety harness or safety belt that you can purchase at any large outdoor camping retailer.  Make sure that you hook the rope to somewhere above you, as a rope that is hooked to somewhere on the ground floor will do you no good if you should slip and fall.

Using a lightweight shovel with a telescoping handle, shovel the snow off of the roof gently.  You never want shovel all the way to the roof's surface, because it is easy to knick or scratch the roof's coating.  Shovel down to within an inch of the surface for best results.  If you are concerned about the remaining snow, use a stiff broom to brush it off.  When tossing the snow off of the roof, watch for power lines and shrubs.  If you throw snow on your delicate lilac bush, it may never recover from the weight and force of the snow.  Once the roof is cleared off, carefully make your way back inside or down to the ground.

Shoveling snow off the roof is a dangerous job.  For those who do not feel comfortable on their roofs or who have slanted roofs, it is definitely not a good idea to attempt shoveling the snow off.  A roof rake is a good option, as it allows the homeowner to stand on the ground and rake the snow from a slanted roof.  Use your best judgment and common sense when clearing off your roof.  There is nothing more important than your personal safety.

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