When snow and ice get to be too heavy on your roof, it can lead to a collapse, but there are warning signs to look for.
"You would tend to see sagging. It doesn't just, all of a sudden, happen. So you do have time to prepare," said Gary Niemela, owner of Skandia Truss. Niemela works to build structures that can combat any amount of snow on the roof. He says that he has heard of two homes in Alger County that have had their roofs collapse recently with last week's blizzard.
On average, one cubic foot of snow can weigh about 23 pounds, and one cubic foot of ice can weigh about 70 pounds, so a few feet of each may lead to hundreds of pounds on your roof. The weight of the snow and ice can vary greatly and is most dependent on how old the snow is. Fresher snow is lighter.
The design of the roof also plays a factor. The flatter the roof, the more it is impacted by the weight of the snow. More slanted roofs handle the weight better.
If the damage gets bad enough, you could also see some water leaking indoors. On Facebook, Steph Kajpust said, "I shoveled mine when an ice dam formed and water was dripping down the walls."
An ice buildup made Little Lake Chapel call for professional help. The ice damming has gotten so bad that the weight across the roof may have been exceeding 1,000 pounds. The chapel's roof is also much flatter than most neighboring structures. The church member who called in the professional said that he wasn't too concerned about a collapse yet, but the leaking indoors was getting worse. Experts say it's always better to call in a professional.
"My advice to most people who are contemplating shoveling their roofs is to not do it if they can possibly avoid it. It's a last case situation where, if there's leaking in the house, they have to address it, but in most cases, roofs can handle the loads," said Dan Perkins, President of Dan Perkins Construction in Ishpeming.
Perkins says that an inexperienced shoveler on the roof can sometimes lead to more damage. But whether you decide to call for help or do it yourself, it's better not to wait if the snow piles too high. Since each structure is different, Niemela said to use common sense and be aware of the signs.
"Definitely if you see a sagging ceiling, you need to take action," Niemela said.
Perkins also said that shoveling your roof can be dangerous, so only do so if you are physically able. Better yet, to avoid the whole situation, he said that proper venting and insulation are a good preventative measure.