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Is my roof really going to collapse?

SHREWSBURY, Massachusetts – I’ve had several emails and calls today from people that I know, wondering just how likely it is that they need to move their kids into the basement, fearing that their home will be the very next one to cave in.  While anything is possible, the answer really depends on the home itself.

You probably have seen in the news about several properties that had a roof collapse this week, and I think that caused a lot of people to completely panic.  The first step is to take a deep breath and relax.  I know that one property which collapsed had been abandoned for years, and was more than halfway there before the snow ever hit it, having had plumbing breaks and many other issues.  Thankfully it was unoccupied at the time….

Yes there have been many such collapses over the course of the last week, and yes, many more will come down in weeks to come, but for most people it’s not something you need to really panic about.

To discuss the situation, let’s break it into three groups of properties.

For homes built in the last 20-30 years, you probably don’t have a lot to worry about. These homes were designed and built under a relatively strict set of building codes, and should be able to weather things like this pretty well.  The most important thing you need to worry about with these homes is making sure that the ridge and soffit vents are cleared of snow to prevent ice dams from forming.

Now let’s look at Antique homes.  Some would likely think that these homes aren’t as well built as newer ones, but in many cases they are fantastically built from a structural standpoint. After all, while the snow we’ve had is far more than we’ve seen in recent years, these homes have survived for over a century.  They’ve weathered snow, hurricanes, and a host of other turmoil and they’re still standing.

In between those two age groups, you start to see properties that were built between 1900-1970, and these deserve just a little bit of extra attention at times like this.  That doesn’t mean panic, but just a little looking around, and making sure that you do what you can to rake snow that you can reach, just to try and reduce the load on the structure.

Within this category, and really applicable to all three, you may have certain sections of the roof that are more vulnerable than others.  These are areas where the actual pitch of the roof is low, or even flat.  This can occur on any age home.  For example, you may have a 20 year old home, with a screened porch addition off the back, which has a flat roof.  This area is a place to watch for signs that it can’t handle the weight.  I would still hire a professional, before climbing out on the roof myself, just to be on the safe side.

Remember, with all the talk that’s been going on in the media about snow on roofs, there is one single thing that kills and injures more people than anything else.   Any guess as to what that is?   It’s really quite simple.   It’s not their bedroom ceiling collapsing on their heads.  No, it’s the fact that in any given storm, X number of people trying to “protect themselves” will fall off their roofs.  It just happened the other day in Millbury.

Trust me, you are far, far safer leaving the snow on your roof, then you are climbing up onto the roof with a shovel.  I don’t know about you, but I don’t climb on my roof when it’s NOT covered with ice…so I’m certainly not about to do it in subzero weather when the shingles have turned into a skating rink.

Just remember to use your head, and be safe!!

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