What damage does melting snow do to a house?

plymouth hoe after snowfall

When snow falls in the UK it creates something far worse than a winter wonderland for many people. Snow disrupts work, traffic and travel and causes a lot of damage to your home, especially when it starts to melt.

There are various problems that can occur when the snow melts and the temperatures start to rise again, indicating that snow damage is a real issue that must be addressed as soon as possible.

It is rare for most parts of the UK to get any amount of snow more than a light dusting, however the past couple of weeks, Britain has been turned white, roads closed, travel disrupted, and events cancelled.

Many people have quite rightly decided to stay at home and wait it out, but whilst they do, what is happening to their home? Sub zero temperatures outside mean that whatever is happening to the house can wait a few days until it stops snowing!

When your house is covered in snow, this can cause problems, as can when the snow itself starts to melt and dissipate away, further problems can become clear and we are going to look at some of them today.

Snow problems

The first thing to consider if snow is causing a problem is to venture outside (but wrap up well!) and take a look at your roof. If there is not much snow on your roof, this indicates a big problem, although in theory, one that can be remedied by you fairly easily.

If your house is the only one in the street without snow on the roof, this means that you have little or no loft insulation fitted to your home. You may also not have lagged pipes or cold water tank. This means you stand a big chance of the pipes or the tank bursting when the water inside freezes and expands, meaning that you could wake up to a burst water tank, and the contents in your front room.

No loft insulation means that you are literally heating your roof, and as a result, your home heating bills will be very high and in fact you have the heating or fire turned on, but still feel cold? That is the reason why.

Heat can also escape through the walls, and we talked about this in an earlier blog post.

As soon as the snow melts, either bit some rolls of loft insulation and fit them yourself, or get a contractor to do it. For those on a low income or benefits, it is possible under the green deal scheme and the warmer homes initiative, to get a grant to have your loft insulation fitted for free.

 No insulation? Best option is to live here then…

is your house cold?

Other problems that become apparent due to snow is the LOAD that is bearing down on the roof and this is a side effect of actually HAVING insulation in the loft.

Snow, remember, is frozen water.

If you have a large pitched roof, and the snow is 6 inches thick, well, think about if that was all water, enough to fill a small swimming pool. It weights, literally, a ton, and that is causing stress to your roof.

The same problems if not worse can be found on flat roofs, where the snow has no chance of sliding off.

Two feet of snow on the average-sized roof can be the equivalent of 38,000 pounds of force, or 19 tons!!!

The problem is that if snow sits on a roof for a long time, it can seep into brickwork, parapets, behind render, into storage tanks, and so on. When the water freezes, it expands, so cracks can occur, however when it melts, it of course turns to water, which has to go somewhere.

snow english houses

Melting snow problems

When the snow melts, it of course, is turned into water, which, as we said above, has to go somewhere, but WHERE EXACTLY?

The water can seep through tiles, slates and gaps around edges and flashing, causing damp to enter the house. It can also saturate ceiling and floor joists causing them to warp when drying out and potentially crack or split. Replacement of these is an expensive job but may be covered by your home insurance so if in doubt, get a professional survey from a qualified surveyor.

One other consequence of melting snow often overlooked is the damage it can do to your upvc gutters and downpipes, insofar as the packed snow inside can freeze, expand and split the pipes.

When the snow melts this causes a tremendous amount of water that has to be drained away form the roof and your gutters may not be up to the task of dissipating such a large amount of water in one go and they can shift in their fixing and cause leaks.

protective decorative roof paint coatings from Andura

One final point to note is the fact that your house should have a DPC, a damp proof course, which stops damp rising up from the ground into the walls.

If deep snow is packed up against the house, this means water has the potential to breach the DPC and when the snow starts to melt, you may find black mould spots on the lower parts of the wall.

Solutions and cures to snow damage

There are a few things that you can do to minimise the risk of snow damage, although fighting mother nature is a tough battle. You could make sure that you roof is properly insulated and pipes lagged, as mentioned earlier, plus if your roof is normally moss covered, although with snow there you can’t do a lot for now, when it does melt, have your roof tiles professionally cleaned.

Rid your roof of snow before it collapses

If the snow is sitting on the roof right now, there is a roof rake tool available called a SNOW RIPPER which you can extend upwards onto the roof and you will be able to remove some of the snow that way but you should NOT climb onto a snow covered roof.

You should not attempt, if using one of these, to remove ALL the snow as you could damage or dislodge roof tiles in the process.

Houses in countries that get a lot of snow often have what are called “Alpine pitched roofs”, sharply pitched to avoid the accumulation of snow, however the Alpine style is often called a chalet style here in the UK and we have worked on a house lately with a similar roof type, the project can be seen on this page.

Signs that a roof is about to collapse are creaking and popping sounds, and doors and windows that will not open. If this is you, and this is extreme, but get out NOW!

Snow may look light and fluffy but it is not!

If you have ever had to shovel snow from a path or similar, you will remember each shovel load is very heavy!

This is because it is frozen water of course, so think about that shovel full, times by a few hundred or even thousand, and that is the weight that would be bearing down on your roof.

Protect your walls from snow

Your walls need to be protected from snow and frost damage too, and they should also have a protective exterior wall coating on it, because not only will it repeal any excess water that may leak onto the wall or drip from the roof, it will also stop any damp coming in from snow that is packed up against the walls.

For more information, call us on 0800 970 4928 for a free survey.

UPDATED 27TH JAN.

For proof that I am not talking nonsense, A house in Barnsley, Yorkshire had to be evacuated yesterday after, yes you’ve guessed it, the weight of snow on their roof caused it to collapse.

House with roof exposed after gable end collapsed The gable end of the house had collapsed under the weight of the snow

A family has been forced to leave their home in South Yorkshire after a part of it collapsed under the weight of the snow, the fire service has said.

Firefighters were called to the house on Wood Street, Barnsley, at 04:00 GMT on Saturday and found the gable end of the building had fallen down.

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