Protecting Barn Roofs from Heavy Snow

12-28 roof

Winter brings many challenges to the farm. Snow is one obstacle that needs to be constantly fought. Thinking ahead and preparing your operation are the best ways to save grief (and extra work) this winter.

Snow loads on barn roofs have the potential to cause significant damage. Know the snow loads for your area. Click here for a link to find out how much snow typically falls in your area. The general rule of thumb for maximum suggested snow levels on a roof is 4 ft. of dry snow and 2 ft. of wet snow is the maximum. Figure out the amount your roof can safely hold using the following formula:

Calculated Roof Loading (lb/ft2) = Depth (ft) x Density (lb/ft2/ft depth). The approximate density (lb/ft2/ft depth) is: light snow=5-20; packed snow=20-40 ;packed snow with ice=40-58; ice=58.

If you are planning on renovating a barn or building a new one, these equations will come in handy to build your barn strong enough to limit issues. If your barn will not be changing anytime soon, this information will give you the knowledge to stay ahead of the snow levels and avoid problems.

Pay attention to the roof all winter. Notice if there are any changes as more snow gets added on. Does the roof or supports start sagging or bowing? Are they misaligning? Is there any creaking, leaking, cracks, or doors and windows that won’t open/shut properly? These could all be signs that the weight of snow is too much on your barn and could collapse. Most metal buildings do not give any of these warnings before they collapse.

Roof collapse potential can be affected by the pitch of the roof, drifting of snow, shingles vs. metal roofing, and any valleys/areas that snow collects. Consistently clearing snow will help prevent roof collapse.

To clear snow, we must think safety first. If going up on the roof, make sure the proper ladder, harnesses, and footwear are used to protect yourself from falling. If clearing snow from the ground using a rake, shave off the snow a few inches at a time. This helps to prevent big sections of snow falling that could potentially injure someone, and helps to protect the roof. Whichever method is chosen, the most important thing is that that you and other people (and animals) are not in an area where the snow could fall and bury them.  Do not try and scrape ice off, it could damage the roof and lead to leaks.


Protect Your Farm Buildings From Snow Loads.” Rural Mutual Insurance

Jacobson, Larry and Janni, Kevin. “Don’t Let Snow Collapse Your Barn Roof.” Living the Country Life

Hunt, Karen. “Barn Roofs: The Bigger the Snow… The Harder the Fall.” The Bullvine

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