Clearing the snow from your roof and house is a real art!
In Québec, snow removal is a sport we engage in after every snow storm, with varying degrees of enthusiasm. Armed with shovels, scrapers and brooms, we clear our alleys, entries, stairs and vehicles. In other words, there are no secrets to snow removal. Is that really the case?
Roofs under pressure: watch out!
In normal weather, our roofs are designed to hold up under the blanket of snow that accumulates over the winter. However, thaws are becoming more and more frequent and, given the allied rain, snow can get heavier and put stress on a house’s structure. Significant weight can manifest signs such as:
- Cracks in interior walls
- Doors that rub or get stuck
- Unusual cracking sounds
- Deformation of ceilings
When to remove snow
To keep this from happening, it is essential to keep an eye on your roof and have the snow removed when required. According to the APCHQ, Quebec’s association of building and housing professionals, flat roofs should be cleared when the snow is 60 cm (24 inches) thick, or more. Sloped roofs should be cleared regularly, as the rough surface of the shingles promotes snow accumulation. Such accumulations could become a danger to you, your family, and passers-by if they suddenly slide off the roof. For more information on removing snow and ice, see the Régie du bâtiment du Québec (RBQ) page on that topic.
How to remove snow
Getting a specialist, usually a roofer or snow removal contractor, to clear off your roof is highly recommended, since these professionals know the snow removal techniques and have the right tools for the job. However, if you want to clear your own roof, here is some advice on how to do it safely.
Eight tips for safe snow clearing
- Never clear your roof alone; in the event of an accident or problem, someone needs to be there to help you, and vice versa.
- Take time to set a perimeter around the area in which you will put the snow (using cones, tape or a barrier, for example).
- Use non-metallic tools and only remove the necessary amount of snow (you can leave up to 15 cm on a flat roof), to avoid damaging the roof membrane.
- If you have a sloped roof, use a telescoping scraper specifically designed for this job and stand outside the area in which the snow will fall.
- Watch out for power lines close to the roof! Never touch the lines with your shovel or rake, as you might damage the lines, or even be electrocuted!
- If you’re clearing a flat roof, plant your ladder in a snowbank, and make sure it is stable and ice free before using it. Wear a safety harness.
- Once the job is done, do not jump into the snowbank! You could get hurt on a piece of ice, on a pole, or on something buried in the bank.
- When clearing a car shelter, never push on the fabric from inside the shelter. Clear it from outside using a snow rake.
Around the house
Remember to clear snow and ice from staircases, doors and balconies, especially if used as emergency exits. Clear evacuation routes right to the road. This will be very useful if you have to get out of the house in a hurry!
Consider your natural gas equipment
If you have devices that run on natural gas (kitchen appliances, water heater, furnace, fireplace, etc.), here are some precautions to take when clearing snow:
- Keep the access to the tank clear of snow and ice
- Mark the location of outdoor gas system components (including the hook-up, counter, air intake and exhaust)
- Never push snow onto gas system components, and avoid snow build-up around them, especially air vents and exhausts
- Keep a safe distance between your snow removal tools (shovel, snow blower, etc.) and gas system components
- Put a temporary shield around gas system components if you have to use a mechanical device near them
- Use a broom or brush to remove snow from these components, rather than a metal shovel or other mechanical device that could damage them
- In the event of ice build-up on gas system components, call Énergir’s Customer Service department at 514 598-3222 or 1 800 875-9354 (toll-free).