How to
Rake Snow Off Your Roof

If you live in an area where it snows a lot, you may find yourself raking snow off your roof. In a well-designed house, this is rarely necessary. Not all houses, however, are well-designed for snow.

Some houses have porches with flat roofs that collect snow. The porch is an addition to the house and is an afterthought. Other houses have shallow-pitched roofs that are not steep enough to cause the accumulated snow to slide off naturally.

In the case of the house I live in, the house is positioned just below a hill that stops the wind. The wind stops there, deposits the snow, and it makes accumulates in huge drifts that are out of proportion to the size of the actual storm.

In any case, here are some tips for raking snow off of your roof:

  1. Buy a snow rake.

    This is the first step. Typically, snow rakes are sold at the hardware store in snow country.

    Snow rakes come in kits which you assemble yourself.

  2. Buy more than one snow rake if your roof is a long way from the ground.

    Buying more than one kit allows you to assemble two kits together to make a snow rake that is extra long.

    Here you have to be careful. Since you are now exceeding the design specification of the rake, you must handle your snow rake very carefully being sure not to stress it or flex it too much.

    When I make two kits into one long kit, I replace the fasteners with nuts and bolts that I buy at the same hardware store. Kits are designed to be easy to put together. In some cases, the fasteners that hold the parts together are made out of plastic.

    I don't trust these plastic parts and I'm afraid of orphaning the rake on the roof while I'm left on the ground holding the handle. That's why I replace these plastic parts.

  3. Build a path around the house so that you can walk on top of the snow.

    I consider this to be an essential step. One half hour of building paths through the snow so that you can walk on top of it will save you lots of trudging through deep snow and falling into holes.

    You don't want to be falling into holes. This really slows you down. Trust me on this one. I know.

    How do I build a path? I walk through the snow taking little tiny baby steps retracing my steps many times. I walk forwards. I walk sideways. I cover the same ground over and over again.

    The idea is to create a flat surface that you can walk on as easily as you would walk on a narrow sidewalk.

    Your paths through the snow will support your weight if you will follow this simple rule: Whenever you step into a hole, fill that hole with snow until it is as solid and flat as the rest of your sidewalk made out of snow.

    It's so much easier to work the snow rake when you have a sidewalk to walk on that you've built yourself.

    I've thought of using snow shoes but have rejected this solution. To me, there's nothing that is better than walking on hardened and flat snow with my own two feet. I like being able to move around easily.

  4. Go for the easy stuff first.

    Since the whole point of snow-raking is to remove weight off the roof so that it does not collapse under the weight, you might as well go after the easy stuff first.

    I do the easy stuff first and then if I have the time and energy, I go after the hard stuff that is higher up.

  5. Remember that it is harder to move snow once it hits the ground than it is to get it off the roof in the first place.

    I always keep this in mind when I pull snow off the roof and on to the driveway.

    It's at least 3 times as hard moving the snow once it hits the ground versus making it fall off the roof with the snow rake.

    Snow falls easily off the roof because you have a fall line working in your favor. Once it hits the ground, you have to pick it up and throw it with a shovel.

    I'm very careful not to remove more snow than I can shovel. Of course, it helps if you own a snow-blower.

    I don't own a snow-blower.

  6. Leave a protective layer of snow on the roof.

    Remember! You don't have to get all the snow. Just the excess that threatens the load-bearing capacity of the roof.

    It helps to leave the bottom-most layer of snow on the roof as this protects the shingles from damage by the snow rake.

  7. Rake a little snow each day.

    If you do a little bit each day, you won't have to worry about it accumulating. Generally speaking, it is not any one storm that will collapse a roof. It is a series of storms -- each building on the next.

  8. Consider your roof your winter health club.

    This is a health club where you pay no dues and you don't have to get in the car to get there. You simply go outside and start raking anytime you need exercise.

  9. Be aware that snow rakes destroy gloves.

    I can't believe how quickly my snow rake has destroyed mine.

    I haven't solved this problem yet, but I'm thinking of buying some fireman's gloves to solve the problem.

    The gloves I have in mind are the ones that the fireman on an old fashioned steam locomotive uses to shovel coal into the steam furnace of the steam engine.

    If figure if these gloves can be used to shovel coal, surely they can be used to rake snow.

    As I recall, they are well-insulated against the heat which should provide some cold protection as well. Furthermore, the outside surface is heavy leather. In theory, it should take quite some time for a snow rake to wear these gloves out. I'll have to try this out to see how it works in practice.

Snow-raking is Good Exercise

I find snow-raking to be very good exercise. I can't believe how much I eat after I've been out snow-raking.

In all probability, our roof would not collapse even if I never snow-raked it.

However, snow-raking for me is a probability game. Even if the chance is 1 out of 10,000 that our roof might collapse, I'd still like to take some steps to lessen that probability.

How to Snow Rake Blog

I've started a snow-raking blog. If I can't answer your question, perhaps someone else can.

If you email me with a snow rake question, I'll try to answer it somewhere on the blog. This way, other people can benefit from the discussion.

Fair enough? This way I don't answer the same question over and over again. Also, since I'm really not a snow-raking expert, it makes it possible for others to point out any erroneous suppositions I may have made.

©Edward Abbott, 2005-2010. All rights reserved. Revised December 29, 2010.

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