Construct This: A Contractor's Blog

Construct This: A Contractor's Blog

Slopes And Snow — Choosing Your Roof Trusses With Winter Weather In Mind

by Joyce Rivera

Building a new home is a significant investment no matter where you live, but in regions with heavy winter snowfall, it can be quite the intimidating project. Snow loads cause roof failures every year through overloading or leaking caused by melting ice. When you're choosing a roof for a snowy climate, there are a few vital points you can keep in mind to prevent a winter tragedy from damaging your new home.

Trusses Provide More Reliable Support

While there are some advantages to a rafter system of roof supports, when your roof may be bearing an unpredictable amount of weight several months out of the year, it's better to choose a truss roof. Pre-made truss systems are machine tooled under optimal conditions, which means all cuts and connections are guaranteed to meet and even sometimes exceed building standards.

When taking potential snow loads into account, this precision and the additional support provided by heavy timber trusses can help you to avoid the potential issues with weak spots that may crop up with stick-built roofing systems.

Keep Shapes Simple

Snow will not accumulate evenly on a complex roof. Parapets, valleys, or saw-tooth shapes can all cause snow to accumulate in eaves and lower points and create undue stress there. As time goes on, the snow trapped in these areas will become more densely packed and eventually freeze into ice, which is much heavier than fresh snow.

Roofs with complex shapes and flat areas are also at risk of forming ice dams, where melting ice from one part of the roof flows to another part and refreezes. Ice dams can trap small reservoirs of water on top of your roof, increasing the weight and the risk of springing a leak.

As interesting and eye-catching as complex roofs can be, it's worth considering whether the appearances outweigh the simplicity and safety benefits of a steep-sloped gable roof that easily sheds excess snow.

Know the Signs

Regardless of the type and style of roof you choose, you should arm yourself with the knowledge of what it looks like when the snow load gets to be too much. Especially during the first winter after construction, if you can catch roof stress early, you may be able to prevent irreversible damage.

Any of the following signs will indicate your roof is suffering from too much snow load:

  • Sagging ceilings
  • Drooping or newly angled light fixtures
  • Creaking or popping sounds coming from the roof
  • Wall cracks or bowing walls
  • Windows and doors begin to feel tight, stick, or won't open at all
  • Lower trusses beginning to curve

If you spot any of the above signs, keep your interior doors and all windows closed to help ease the roof strain. If possible, clear snow from your roof as evenly as possible, and immediately consult with your contractor for an inspection.


About Me

Construct This: A Contractor's Blog

When you want something built, who do you turn to? Okay, maybe you answered that question with a particular person's name, and that's an acceptable answer. But the answer we were really looking for was "construction contractors." This profession is full of people who can build this and that, and who can customize the things they build to meet your unique needs. Working with a construction team is like working with a bunch of people who just want to make you happy. We love that aspect of the industry, and it's something we plan on focusing on more as we write this blog.