How to Keep a Cabin’s Roof From Caving in From Heavy Snow

Collecting snow on your cabin’s roof can be dangerous. It’s something that any cabin owner or builder, that expects snow in the winter, will want to prepare for. I am one such cabin owner; here are some ways that I’ve found to keep your cabin roof from caving in from heavy snow. 

How to keep a cabin’s roof from caving in from heavy snow: 

  • Discover how much weight your roof can handle.
  • Figure out how much the snow on your roof weighs.
  • Clear excess snow, that pushes that weight limit.
  • Watch for signs of a stressed roof.
  • Clear out dangerous collections of snow and ice.

When the weather outside is frightful, you want to keep it outside. Having the right roof for the right environment that you live in is important. Even more so on a cabin, as cabins are often located in harsher, isolated environments. Because of this, it is important to know how best to protect your roof and everyone living in it.

Roof Caving Preventative Measures

Let’s assume that you have a cabin already built and you want to make sure that it is properly protected against the build up of snow on your roof, what can you do? 

The first thing you need to learn is just how much snow your roof can handle. As soon as You are able to figure that out you will know which of these options will be most beneficial to you. Additionally the type of roof that your cabin has is also important. 

If the roof of your cabin is flat or has a very minor slope to it you will have a harder time taking care of the snow. As there are not very many places for the snow to go. Because of this, it is suggested that you first calculate the pitch of your house.  AccuWeather has the following breakdown to calculate your roof’s pitch. 

Calculate your roof pitch: Divide the “rise” (vertical distance between the peak of the roof and the edge) by the “run” (distance from the peak of your roof to the edge) and convert the fraction to a ratio of 12. (For example, if the rise of your roof is 15 feet, the run is 36 feet, then the pitch = 15 feet / 36 feet = 5:12)  

Bo Zhang, of AccuWeather

After calculating the weight that your roof can handle you should take that information and see how much the snow in your area is going to way. Snow in different parts of the world weighs differently. For instance, the east of the U.S. often gets heavier snow than the West of the U.S. which often gets lighter fluffier snow. 

Combining the knowledge that you have about the snow in your area, the frequency of snow fall in your area, and the weight that your roof can handle from the snow, you should be able to calculate how often you will need to clear your roof, if at all.

If you find that your roof can maintain the weight of the snow then your not done. Snow is not always the most friendly when it comes off. There are several stories that you’ll hear every winter of someones car that got trapped or wrecked under a large chunk of snow off of someone’s roof. 

The solution to this problem is Schneestop a European product built for just this issue. Europe gets a lot of snow so they are well acquainted with the troubles that a roof full of snow can cause so these Schneestops, “snow stops”, are metal devices that you add to your roof in a diamond pattern of sorts. When it is time for the snow to come of the roof the Schneestops have already done their job of breaking up the snow.

You can buy the Schneestop available at Amazon. Keep in mind if your roof can’t handle the weight of all that snow though, you’ll have to look for a different solution to help you remove the snow from your roof throughout the winter.  

Best Ways to Remove Snow From Your Roof

The removal of snow is not a new process. With any process that has been around for a while, there are several ways to address the removing of snow from your roof. 

Avalanche: This snow removing product is one of the first in the snow removing industry. It works by leading snow down this fabric that is attached to the framing of this device. So when you push the avalanche in and pull out the snow should come off and be carried down without you needing to bring each and every shovel-full back down to the ground. Unfortuantely, this product does struggle with large mounds of snow.

Snow Lance: The snow lance uses a similar design but has exchanged the framing for blades of metal to cut through the ice. This speeds up how much you are able to carry down and can increase the amount of snow that you can take off the roof. However the issue that this still shares with the Avalanche is the nature of needing to pull the snow on top of you as youo are getting it off the roof. 

Wiring: Finally if you want to avoid the whole class of snow rakes and the like you can set wiring up and attempt to remove the snow that way. As seen in this video. This, however, forces you to have to stand and move on top of your roof which can be much more dangerous and harmful than good so not often the optimal choice. 

Keep in mind that when you are under prepared you may be putting yourself into a dangerous situation with the snow. As the FEMA has warned. 

“More often than not, attempting to remove snow from a roof is more hazardous than beneficial, posing a risk to both (people) and the roofing structure.”

Federal Emergency Management Agency

Having the right tools for the job should ease this process. You don’t want to hurt your roof in the process of trying to help it, so look into the above solutions and find the one that works best for you and your cabin. But seriously be careful not everyone gets as lucky as this guy when they clear the snow from their roof.

Designing a Cabin for Heavy Snow

If you are lucky enough to be able to plan out the creation of your cabin’s roof there are several ways that you can increase the effectiveness of your cabin’s roof. 

Have a Strong Roof

When your able to build a roof and your expecting snow you are going to want to build it strong. Check your local building codes. They should reveal how much your roof should be able to safely support. What a roof can manage can change considerably with some at the suggestion of 130 pounds per square foot and others up to 360. 

Talk to your contractor to discover what are the options available for the best sturdy roof. You may even consider finding a structural engineer to have a little more help with this topic. 

Have Your Roof Hang Over Your Whole House

Any porches, walkways, balconies, etc. That you can have covered should be covered by your roof. If you are going to invest a lot into your roof then make sure it is worth the cash that you are putting into it. So, minimize the amount of cleaning you have to do else whereby leaving the snow to fall on your roof.

This won’t always work as the wind will blow snowdrifts onto a vertically covered porch, but generally, you get more snow collecting from falling directly down than from whatever the wind decides to blow around. 

Have Good Pitch and Slope

Having a large pitch to the roof of your home will help keep the snow away. Gravity is what will collapse your roof, so use the force against itself a well-sloped roof will help snow fall off or will allow for easy removal if the snow doesn’t want to move initially. 

Slope is also an important factor in regard to the walkways and driveways around your cabin. Try to make them slope away from your home otherwise the snow and ice will be collecting towards your house. Nobody wants to have to shovel their way out of their own home. 

Orient the Long Side of Your Home to the South

Have you heard of a south facing garden? This is working off of the same principle. By having your home soak in the energy of the sun you keep it warm, which keeps your energy costs down, and will help fight off snow build up.

This can be difficult to manage as there is normally a view you want to see out of your cabin but with reports of a simple orientation change saving 30 to 40% of energy costs in the winter. It might just be worth it.

Keep Your Cabin Warm

Snow will melt if what it’s on is warm enough, so work to keep your house warm. This doesn’t mean that you have to crank the heat up or by another heater, but what you will need, and probably want if your missing it, is good insulation. 

When it comes to living out in the cold insulation is the name of the game. The reason you don’t want to leave the pool is because the water insulates you from the wind. As soon as you step out and the wind blows you feel the cold air on you because you aren’t being insulated. The same process is seen when you bundle yourself up in the winter, or when you add sealant to the window of a home. 

Applying this to your home can be pretty simple. There are quite a few advantages to a cabin here as well. For instance, if you have a log cabin than the logs are natural insulators already. You’ll still want more but wood and products like it can work as a foundation to insulation. 

Options for insulation includes blown-in cellulose, fiberglass batt, foam, spray foam, and wool. So there are plenty of options out there for you. The better insulation that your cabin has the better of your energy bill will be as well. So having quality insulation is well worth the initial expense.

Signs of a Stressed Roof

When in these rough elements you will want to check your house every so often for signs of a stressed roof. Stressed roof as ones that are too heavy laden by snow, or are in general weaker for some reason. There are a few things to watch out for to tell if your cabin’s roof is stressed.

Sagging: a roof is unlikely to happen all in one instant. So you’ll start to see signs of the roof starting to collapse before the whole thing does. Sagging is the pinnacle of this process. It’s a terrible thing to see but something that can give you the information you need to know that you should probably relocate and have your roof looked at. 

Bent roof supports: if the things supporting your roof aren’t looking too good that means they are carrying too much, and if the supports go, well they were there for a reason. Your roof will be following them if they fall.  

Cracks in the ceiling: in general, if your ceiling is looking rough, that’s because of your roof. So if you see cracks in the ceiling it is a sign that you’ll want to have your roof checked out. 

Leaks: perhaps the most iconic form of something being wrong with your roof is a leak. Look the roof is above you. Nothing should be hitting your head if your roof is doing its job. When you feel something come from above you while your indoors, you’ll want to check your roof.  

Misaligned doors and windows: sometimes the roof doesn’t affect the ceiling but rather the alignment of the roof on the top of the house. This will change things like the way that doors and window fit within their frames. So if the door seems harder to close or just won’t close you’ll want to look into why that is because it could be your roof. 

Keeping Your Cabin Warm Out in the Snow

When you’re out in the snow you’ll need to keep everyone inside your cabin warm. That’s not an easy thing to do. but there are three main forms of heating that you can use on top of well-managed insulation which should keep your house warm. 

Warmth is all about energy. So the three forms of heating that you can get correspond to the three forms of energy that you would use. These are wood, gas, and electricity. 

Wood stoves are just like they sound, fireplaces with the proper ventilation to not trap the smoke in your home. Heat rises luckily so having a chimney of some sort shouldn’t cool your home down too much. The difficulty here is that you will need wood. If you don’t have wood to burn than you can’t use the stove, it’s as simple as that.

If you are out in the woods as most cabins are you likely have a good supply of wood or a relatively nearby opportunity for you to collect wood if needed. So if the opportunity exists than a woodstove may be a good way to go. 

Gas furnaces work the same way that a wood stove does but doesn’t require wood it requires gas. This is a little more convenient. Go to a near gas station and you have what you need. Propane is often available as well and there as many propane-based gas stoves.

Overall, the difference in these stoves is that one requires a bundle of wood. This can be frustrating but it’s old fashion and cheap. Whereas the gas stove doesn’t have the rustic feel that you may like and is generally more expensive.

Electric heaters require electricity which isn’t always available in a cabin. Or if you want to disconnect and remove the electronic influence from your life you won’t have this option either. Electric heaters do provide more diversity and even more importantly they are able to be spread in multiple locations. Gas and Wood alternatives have centralized heat meaning it all comes from one place. But electric heating can be spread out and come from multiple places. 

Related Questions

It’s warming up do I need to clear the snow from my roof? If you have a lot of snow on the roof of your home you will want to remove as much as you can. If you don’t you run into the potential problem of the snow coming off in large chunks that can be lethal and break things. 

Should I remove the snow from my roof myself? If you have the tools for snow removal than go ahead. But if you don’t have those tool then it is not suggested that you take care of this problem by yourself. There are several cases each year of people dying due to a slip off of there roof, so please be careful. 

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