WATERVILLE — A snowstorm dumps 8 inches on your roof. Then another storm does the same. And another. And another.

You see the snowplow come and clear your driveway each time and you’re focused on that instead of the load of snow piling up on your roof.

Before you know it, that load is much heavier than what the roof was built to carry, creating a perfect storm for a roof collapse.

This is the scenario Bill Smith, a Waterville-based building contractor, describes to explain why people should get their roofs shoveled regularly and, in some cases, inspected by a professional to make sure they is safe.

“A typical roof system in this area of central Maine is designed for an 80-pound snow load per square foot, and this type of snow we have now, with the rain that’s coming, typically puts that above and beyond that number — more weight than the structure is designed for,” Smith said.

Smith, owner of BPS Roofing & General Contracting, noted that roof shingles typically weigh 2.4 pounds per square foot and if a layer is not stripped off when another layer is added, the load is even heavier when snow accumulates, so there are all sorts of scenarios that can play into such a situation.

He said that a lot of times, his company will shovel roofs that have layers from different storms and because the weather is cold and then turns warm, there can be ice layers that are difficult to remove. It is important, for that reason, to clear a roof right after a storm, he said.

“There are a lot of houses across the state of Maine that, before you get the snow load on it, are possibly too heavy,” he said. “And a lot of people out there that think that just because they have a brand new roof, they shouldn’t have to shovel it off. That’s very incorrect. I think that they’re just thinking there’s no chance it’s even going to leak.”

Snow is more likely to build up on roofs that have less of a pitch than others.

“You take a cape-style or an old farmhouse and you worry about it less,” Smith said. “They’re a lot stronger, with a lot more pitch, and the strength of the rafter system is greater.”

Snow slides off metal roofs and people should do research before hiring someone to install one, as there are many different types, according to Smith.

People can alleviate snow load by using a roof rake or an implement called an Avalanche, which has a long handle with a thin, slick piece of plastic on the end. A person using it pushes the plastic under the snow on a roof and the snow slides off, according to Smith.

He said he thinks a lot of roofing companies do roof shoveling and have equipment for doing that. He noted that people should be careful to make sure a roof shoveler is insured.

Workers remove snow Wednesday from the roof of the Maine Grain Alliance building in Skowhegan.

Smith said he did an estimate last fall on a 30-year-old home in southern Maine that a man had lived in only about two years when he noticed sagging in the roof vent up in the attic and discovered broken rafters. The roof was not built properly, and, over time, stress caused it to collapse, he said.

Smith advises people to get their roofs inspected by a professional to make sure they are safe.

MOBILE HOMES

Trish West, owner of mobile home dealer Pine View Homes in Winslow, said construction standards for mobile homes are much stricter today than they were decades ago.

“They’re a lot different than what they used to be, even in the early 2000s” she said. West, who is also a member of the Winslow Town Council, has owned Pine View Homes for 10 years, and it has been in her family since 1955.

“The technology, from a manufacturing and a construction level, has changed, even in the last five years,” she said. “They’ve made huge strides.”

West said that in the 1960s and 1970s, pitch-roofed mobile homes had load limits of 20 or 30 pounds.

“Now it’s upwards of 40 pounds,” she said, noting that the minimum load limit, however, is 30 pounds.

The pitches themselves also have increased over the years, shifting from flatter to more sloped, which helps snow slide off more easily.

The first safety guidelines for manufactured homes, created by the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development, went into effect in 1976.

“That’s when they put a lot of minimum standards on how mobile homes are built,” West said.

The code includes requirements for the body and frame construction, thermal protection, plumbing systems, heating, cooling and fuel burning systems, electrical systems and fire safety.

Workers remove snow Wednesday from the roof of the Maine Grain Alliance building in Skowhegan.

West said that there is no particular life expectancy for a mobile home.

“It really depends on how well you take care of it,” she said. “Just like with anything else in life, if you don’t take care of it, it won’t last long. If you buy a site-built home and trash it, you don’t take care of it and don’t pay attention to when things break, the same thing can happen. I had a customer that redid a 1958 (mobile home), and he’s still living in it; so there’s no real life, shelf expectancy.”

A number of other factors can contribute to poor home maintenance. For one thing, it is dangerous for mobile home owners to neglect shoveling their roofs off after snowstorms, according to West.

“That’s ice damming,” she said. “Your shingles are taking a hit and the structure is taking a hit as well.”

Sloppily constructed home additions also can cause problems.

“Just like with any type of garage or stick-built home, if you’re not providing a proper cement slab, piers and support on the bottom of the structure, it’s going to weigh the whole structure down for sure,” said West. “If you’re not getting it professionally done, that could be a problem as well.”

Amy Calder — 861-9247

[email protected]

Twitter: @AmyCalder17

 

Meg Robbins — 861-9239

[email protected]

@megrobbins

 

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