Status: 05.12.2023, 16:15 PM
By: Anne Hund
If there is a lot of snow on the roof, residents should know when to act. Experts warn of the dangers.
Homeowners should not underestimate snow on the roof, because in the fallen mass, snow has a lot of weight, as experts warn. You should be careful with roof avalanches and take the best possible precautions around the house so that no one is endangered by falling snow. The Federal Office for Civil Protection and Disaster Assistance also points to other dangers posed by snow loads on roofs. "Extreme, long-lasting snowfalls can jeopardize the load-bearing capacity of a roof," the office informs on its website. "Due to the heavy weight of the snow masses, roofs can collapse and bury people underneath." In particular, if thick and heavy sheets of ice form under the snow due to an unfavourable alternation of thaw and frost phases, the danger increases.
Be careful when it snows – will the roof of the house hold?
Homeowners should be prepared for heavy snowfall, warns structural engineer Prof. Norbert Gebbeken, President of the Bavarian Chamber of Civil Engineers, according to a report by the German Press Agency (dpa). For example, the stability of roofs can be endangered by the snow load. "Homeowners therefore need to know how much snow the structure can support. Just ten centimetres of wet snow means almost 100 kilograms of load per square metre."
Owners find the permissible load for their roof in the statics of their house, according to the dpa report. Proof of stability is usually part of the documentation that homeowners receive from a construction company or from the seller of the building. Those who do not have these documents can contact the local building authority, and tenants of houses can contact their landlords, it continues. If you are unsure, Gebbeken recommends consulting an expert, according to dpa. If you have any doubts about the load-bearing capacity of the roof, you should contact a local structural engineer, as is also the important note at this point. This is because how high the snow load is also depends on the height of the snow, but largely on its consistency.
In particular, as experts emphasize, the danger increases when unfavourable alternation of thaw and frost phases creates thick and heavy ice sheets under the snow. (Archive image/symbolic image) © Karl-Josef Hildenbrand/dpa
Homeowners should act early
According to Gebbeken, homeowners should act urgently if the roof is visibly deformed, windows or doors are jammed or cracks appear in the plaster, according to the dpa report. However, it is not recommended to clear snow from the roof yourself, as this can be dangerous. "If you want to have the roof cleared of snow as a precaution, you have to get a roofer, for example." The fire brigade should only be called "if there is an acute danger that the roof will collapse due to the snow load". The roof should not be stepped on under any circumstances, according to an article by Verivox on the important safety rules for homeowners on the subject of snow load – "not only because of the risk of slipping, but also so as not to increase the weight load even more".
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Authority also advises preventive measures
What protective measures should homeowners take early on? As a preventive measure, the Federal Office for Civil Protection and Disaster Assistance advises on its website the following measures, among others:
- "Especially in the case of older existing buildings, have the load-bearing capacity of your roof checked against possible high snow loads."
- "Keep in mind that the snow load is determined by the snow weight and not by the snow depth."
- "Have smaller extensions, such as conservatories, measured for masses of snow sliding down from the building."
- "Cut back long and heavy branches above house roofs."
- "Use snow slides and snow stoppers to prevent roof avalanches and have their functionality checked at regular intervals."
- "Regularly clean roof drainage facilities of leaves and moss."