Top 10 Snow Removal and Ice Dam Advice for DIY Homeowners

General Roofing Systems Canada provides snow and ice removal services throughout Canada. Calgary, Red Deer, Edmonton, Fort McMurray, Lloydminster, Saskatoon, Regina, Medicine Hat, Lethbridge, Canmore, Banff, Cranbrook, Kelowna, Vancouver, Whistler, Winnipeg, Toronto and points between. British Columbia. Alberta. Saskatchewan. Manitoba. Ontario.

Many homeowners are asking us for a “how-to” snow removal guide because our waiting lists are long in the Edmonton area. Under normal circumstances, we would say nature should run its course and you should not be concerned – leave the snow on the roof.

However, in central Alberta, roof top snow has become a considerable hazard. Roofs are failing, mostly commercial and industrial. Even agricultural buildings at this point have been reported in the news. Car ports and other home attachments are also being added to that list. Ice damming has also become a safety hazard to pedestrian and vehicle traffic.

Removing snow on your own from your roof is dangerous. There are many deaths reported annually in North America caused by roof snow removal. If you are considering braving it alone and are not hiring or waiting for a professional in the Edmonton area, here are some tips to assist you in your removal:

Our Top 10 Roof Snow Removal and Ice Dam Advice for the DIY Homeowner:

  1. You need a partner. When working on the roof, especially with ice and snow, do not work alone.
  2. Your partner needs to ground spot. Vehicular and pedestrian traffic can be hit by snow being thrown off the roof. This is especially important if you are in downtown Edmonton or in a busy commercial area of the city.
  3. Leave some snow on the roof; do not remove the last layer. This is important so as not to do damage to the roof and inadvertently cause a puncture.
  4. Roof weight loads. Snow and ice can be different weights depending on the atmosphere and weather patterns experienced. Be careful with gauging how much snow a roof can handle as snow weight can vary from year to year. A structural engineer should be called if you are concerned. Most homes are well equipped to handle the loads, but this has been an exceptional year of snow in Edmonton. When hearing about commercial and industrial roof collapses, understand that they have roofs that span great areas. Typically, homes have higher pitch roofs and/or flat roofs that are much smaller spans.
  5. Safety first. A harness, rope, anchor, lanyard ladder tie-offs, roof cleats, etc. are mandatory.
  6. Falling off a roof hurts, injures and kills people. We have already received a number of calls in the Edmonton area where people could not wait for us because a leak was aggravating their property. Today we got a call from a daughter who was quite upset that her elderly father got up on the roof and broke his hip trying to make such a repair.
  7. Keep the foundation clear. If at all possible, move the snow that comes off the roof away from your foundation so that in the spring you do not have foundation leaks and related problems.
  8. Do not wreck your roof. Ice salting your roof can damage your shingles or flat roof membrane. Shovels can damage shingles and flat roofs. Stepping in the valley can crack shingles, as well as stepping on roof capping; cracked shingles leak. Stepping on concrete tile, cedar shake, slate, etc. can crack them. Shake roofs are very slippy when wet. This list is enormous – there are many ways to wreck a roof system or roof membrane when clearing snow from your roof top. If you do hire someone, be sure they are very experienced roofers.
  9. Do not be held liableIf you hire a snow removal contractor, but sure they have liability insurance of at least $2,000,000 and are WCB registered. Request a WCB clearance letter that shows they are current.
  10. Check your attic. Many ice dams on roofs in Edmonton this year (due to record snowfalls) are being caused by a problem in the attic. Poor ventilation traps warm air here. Your house could have a condensation issue as a result. Check the air intake under the soffits and be sure your insulation is not on top of the air intake. Check your vapour barrier; is it sealed? Or is it allowing warm air into your attic, which then causes the roof material to warm and freeze? Also check your exhaust vents near the roof ridge (or peak); are they plugged with snow? This is one of the most common problems we are uncovering right now. Your roof needs to be able to breath and the attic needs to be cold or else serious problems will ensue. While up in your attic, you should also check for structural cracking in the roof truss system. Check insulation to be sure it is dry and check the roof sheathing to be sure there is not excessive frost on the underside. Lastly, check your venting requirements for airflow to ensure that you have enough vents installed.

For those DIY roofers in Edmonton, we  hope this article has helped.

Our final piece of advice is to simply wait for the professional. Please.

‘Til next time,


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General Roofing Systems Canada (GRS)

24 Hour Emergency Roof Repair: Call +1.877.497.3528 toll-free.

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