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Winter Weather and DC Roof Concerns



We recently did an interview with Brian Sullivan, a roofing contractor in Tupelo MS.  Mr. Sullivan owns Sullivan Roofs and has been operating a roofing business for almost 20 years.  The following is very good advice for homeowners who encounter ice and snow.

Living in Washington DC, we all know what a terrible winter can bring, in terms of snow and ice.  Snow can be very pesky, collecting on our streets and sidewalks.  However, ice is the real danger!

If you are a home owner, be aware that ice can collect on your roof and do a good amount of damage.  If you notice leaks coming in your house, it might be a sign that your roof has finally given way to the ice.

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Mr. Sullivan says there are four steps to preventing damage from icy winter weather.  Roof inspections, including the porch, garage roof, and any sheds is also important to access the damage.  Properly maintaining a roof is imperative to making sure your roof can last through many seasons of winter weather.  If you find large piles of snow on you roof, you can use a snow rake to remove it.  Make sure you do this from the ground, though.  Never get on an icy roof!

You can also call a professional if you don’t feel good about inspecting your own roof.  Most companies will give you a free inspection.


When snow melts, the water can run off the slopes and collect in pockets on your roof.  This can be dangerous and add to the prospect of damage.  Access your own house and ask yourself what  kind of slopes you have on your roof.  If your roofs pitch is more than 3/12, you should expect the melting ice to run on to the flatter parts of you roof.  Once there, the water will refreeze and form ice.  This can be dangerous.


If you have a newer roof, you probably don’t have to worry about the weight of ice or snow.  However, decayed roofs will be weaker and more apt to  sag from the extra weight.  Most roofs can support twenty pounds per sq. foot of snow before they will have any problem.  More than that, and even newer roofs can accumulate damage.  If you want to find out if your roof can resist more weight than the average roof, call your local roofer or building department and see if higher loads were used when your house was built.  If you live in the New England area, there may be a possibility that higher loads were used on your home.  In DC, there is less chance that higher loads were used.


Look at it like this…twelve inches of of fresh snow is equal to 1 inch of liquid.  This equals about five pounds per sq foot on your actual roof.  With new snow, it will take about 4 feet of snow before your roof will stress.

With packed snow, only 4 inches of snow will make one inch of liquid.  That makes five pounds per sq foot.  This means that even two feet of old snow could stress your roof to the brink of damage.

The total amount of snow that accumulates on your roof is the real number you should consider. Just two feet of old snow with another two feet of new snow could weigh in at over 50 pounds… which is just over rate your roof can take.

When considering ice, only one inch of ice will be equal to one foot of new snow.


After doing the math, if you think your roof is in danger of being damaged by the weight of snow or ice, you should hire a professional to remove it.  If you feel like you can do this yourself, make sure you have a safety plan in place.  A fall from a roof can be deadly!  Grab a snow rake and attach that long arm to it. Get as much off as you can.  If it is ice, you will need to call someone who is skilled at doing this kind of work.

Thank you to Mr. Sullivan (his site is www.sullivanroofs.com ) for this great advice about snow and ice dangers.  With the winter storms we have had in 2015, DC residents should be proactive about checking their roofs.  An ounce of prevention… oh well you know the rest.

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