Snow Loads on Your Tahoe Roof

October 31, 2022

In 2017 a liquor store in South Lake Tahoe collapsed, and evacuations of other commercial buildings were done as a safety precaution. Why? Because snow loads on roofs can be extremely dangerous. 

A few inches, or even feet of light, fluffy snow on a roof system is not likely a problem. However, snow acts like a sponge, so when that snow gets rained on the snow gets increasingly more heavy and can wreak havoc to the structure. Modern buildings in Tahoe must be built to hold 150 pounds of snow per square foot. The standard changed over time. For instance, in 1992 the regulations were 100 pounds per square foot and in 2000 it was moved to 115 pounds per square foot. Structures built prior to these standards are at a significantly higher risk for damage. 

Four feet of snow in Tahoe is not entirely unusual, but average snow weighs around 80 pounds per square foot. This weight dramatically increases as the snow turns icy, or if rain is added to the mix. This amount of weight, depending on when the structure was built, can be catastrophic. Broken trusses, sagging, roofs, and even full collapses are possible if the roof is overweighted. 

Ice dams from snow on your Tahoe roof system can cause leaks. This phenomenon can happen in any home, but it is more common on homes without proper ventilation. The problem is warm air from the attic can melt the snow, which then refreezes at the eave of the roof causing a dam. Water can then back up inside the home and cause damage. 

Having a little snow on the roof of your Tahoe home shouldn’t be a problem, but if your Tahoe home has accumulated a heavy load of snow, it is likely a good idea to have the snow removed. This, however, can be an exceptionally dangerous job, and it is always recommended that you hire a professional to do it. 

Another solution is to install heat cables on the roof to keep too much snow buildup. This is a solution that an experienced roofer can help with as well. 

Living in snow country, such as Tahoe, means you may need to take special precautions to make sure that your roof and home are protected in the winter months. If you think you might have an issue with your roof, give American Eagle Roofing a call to help.