As the snow begins to pile up — and with more expected this weekend — snow load on area roofs is not a concern just yet, local building officials say.
City of Kenai building official Larry Floyd said he has not had any reports of structural concerns as of Wednesday.
Floyd said it’s not the depth of the snow is not the concern, but it’s the weight of the snow — which is caused by the moisture in the snow.
“What we’ve had this year for the most part so far has been pretty light snow as far as the moisture content,” Floyd said Wednesday. “You can have anywhere from two-and-a-half feet of the heaviest snow imaginable that would actually start stressing up our design criteria here in Kenai.
“Or you can have as much as 12 or 14 feet of the lightest stuff and still be OK.”
He estimates there is about three feet of snow on some of the roofs around town.
Floyd said with the large amounts of snowfall this winter, concerns could arise if it keeps up.
“You can get into some situations with water damming that can cause leaking and things like that,” Floyd said.
Water damming occurs when the snow at the roof’s overhang melts and turns to ice, creating a dam effect. Once the other snow higher up on the roof starts to melt, it will roll down and pool up behind the ice dam, Floyd said.
“(The water) can get under shingles and cause leaking and so forth,” he said. “But that’s mostly just dependent on how well your roof covering was put on originally. If you’ve never had problems like that in the past, most likely you won’t have them now.”
Glenn Hanson, who owns Hanson’s Roofing in Kenai, said that ice damming can cause damage to the house if it is not attended to.
“When you have a foot of ice dam on your eve, there’s water behind it that’s capable of getting up underneath the house and damaging the sheetrock,” Hanson said.
Damage to the house may not be as seen as easily as a rafter caving in, he said.
“No rafter may be broken, but they’ll be bowed and it’ll look real (bad) to say the least,” Hanson said. “It’s really expensive to fix that bow on the house — fixing it isn’t ideal, it’s not what we’re looking for. We’re looking for a house to last a long time without repairs.”
Hanson said there have been only one or two other years that have seen a snowfall like this.
“The snows that come, even if its two or three feet, they’re usually mostly wet, damp soft snows that’s heavy,” he said. “So you don’t really want that on top of what you’ve already got.”
He said the snowfall in Nikiski is about double of what Kenai and Soldotna receives.
“So when the snows are deep in Kenai, you can imagine twice that amount being on the roofs in Nikiski — that holds true most every year,” Hanson said.
Hanson said that residents who want to have the snow removed from their roofs, to do so with caution.
“I wouldn’t advise just anybody to go up there and take it off simply because damage could be done,” he said. “If you damage a roof that’s not new, with today’s new shingles and the houses that have shingles on them, most of the time, those shingles are old and it’s hard to find replacements for them.
“So you wind up with a big patch on your roof that doesn’t look very nice.”
Besides removing the snow from the roof, there is nothing really that can be done to avoid the water damming issue, Floyd said.
“Unless you know that you’ve got an issue in years past in water damming and causing lakes I think I would leave it alone,” he said. “There’s a lot of risk involved.”
There have also not been any reports of any cause for concern in Soldotna, building official Ralph Linn said.
Linn said that concerns would be likely to arise if there is heavy drifting occurring on the roof, or if unbalanced melting takes place on the roof.
The snowfall in the last couple days has not been very heavy, Linn said, but the snowfall from Sunday was heavier. He advised caution to those who are thinking about removing snow from their roofs.
“I think the biggest thing is people not being in good health if they get up there on their roof,” Linn said. “And...they’re adding weight to the roof by walking around on it.”
Linn said to make sure the snow is not being transferred to one part of the roof only to be moved again.
“Because then you just add a whole bunch of (snowload) right in one spot and that’s not good,” he said. “So try and get it off as even as possible.”
He also advised that injuries sustained while working on a roof is not limited to just slips and falls.
“It can also be health related issues,” Linn said.
Bruce Wolf spent Wednesday shoveling the snow off of his roof in Kenai, which was one of a handful of times he felt it was necessary to do so.
“It’s been nine or 10 years since we’ve had a good snow,” Wolf said. “I’ve been here for 27 years and I’ve done the roof three or four times.”