Roof experts on post-snowstorm roof/gutter damage: ‘It’s not really the snow’s fault’

VIDEO: How to protect your home from wet snow

Roof repair expert David Batchelder said he could see it coming. Heavy snow and ice pile up on roofs and rain gutters —followed by rain and warmer air — and suddenly, you have leaks, interior floods and gutter damage.

Batchelder, who owns David’s Roof Cleaning and Repair, recorded a video during an emergency repair of a rooftop in Port Orchard, which caused a flood in the business below. It happened when melting snow pooled and “bellied” or pushed down a section of the roof.

“When that starts to melt, it has nowhere to go,” he said. “It just starts floating.”

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He said water pooling instead of draining after a heavy snowfall can cause serious damage below. “It’s a catastrophic roof failure,” he said. “I have seen it happen.”

He said damage is common in homes with flat or low-angle roofs when heavy ice and snow build up and melt with nowhere to drain. The same mix of heavy, melting snow and pooling water caused a massive roof to collapse into a Safeway grocery store outside of Portland on Monday.

More commonly, rain gutters have been pulled down or torn completely off. “It’s not really the snow’s fault,” Batchelder said.

“This happens when people don’t clean their gutters,” he said, explaining that gutters filled with old, wet debris are already heavy. Add heavy snow and ice and a little rain, and you have damage.

“When the snow starts to thaw, the water doesn’t have anywhere to go,” he said. “It pours right over the front, or the gutter will begin to belly where it starts to pull away from the rafter tails, and that’s where you see or hear about gutters that have fallen off someone’s roof.”

Batchelder has timely advice to anyone with a flat or low-angle roof. He said having drainage and clean roofs and gutters is the key to avoiding expensive repairs after snowstorms.

“You don’t have to clean all the snow off the roof,” he said. “Just make sure there’s a channel in the snow for the water to drain.”