Before the snow melts, you'll need a plan to protect your property from damage. Too much heavy snow on a roof can cause it to collapse. Leaks in the roof may mean melting snow and rain can drip into your living space. Outside, freezing air isn't kind to your plants and snow piling up on your sidewalk needs your attention, too.
Here are ways to prevent damage to your roof, basement and garden, and to clean up and prepare for the thaw:
How much snow can your roof handle?
Flat and low-slope roofs accumulate more snow and ice, while melting snow runs off of steep sloped roofs. Ice and snow also tend to pile up on porches and places next to a taller section of the house, especially during high winds, according to the Insurance Institute for Business & Home Safety.
Unless the roof structure is damaged or decayed, most residential roofs should be able to support 20 pounds per square foot of snow before they become stressed. Snow loads may be higher in snow-prone areas. Check with the local building department to find out if higher loads were used when your home was built.
Matthew Steimle of Kennedy Restoration in Portland calculates that depending on its moisture content, snow weighs between 12 1/2 and 15 pounds per cubic foot. If six inches of snow is sitting on a 9-foot-by-12-foot covered patio, that's 850 pounds of additional weight, which the structure may or may not be designed to hold.
The best way to prevent damage is to remove snow from roofs, covered patios, carports and awnings. "If you pull the snow down, it can't melt and form an ice dam," says Steimle.
If you have a single-story home, you can rake the snow off the roof using a snow rake or scraper mounted at a right angle on a telescoping aluminum pole.
"It's an effective, if tedious, solution," but it's dangerous to use it to reach the second-floor roof, he warns.
Be cautious and don't stand on ladder unless someone is there to hold it for you. Also take care not to break the shingles, which are brittle in cold weather, he adds.
If you notice leakage from an ice dam and can't rake the snow off the roof, hire a roofing company to steam it off. A steamer, which is like a pressure washer, except that the water is hot, melts the ice away without damaging the roofing.
"Chipping the ice off with a hatchet or an ice pick can break or puncture the shingles," he says.
Barb Casey of Kennedy Restoration says her company's crew has been busy examining water in basements. Her advice to homeowners:
"Be proactive with wet basements and rooms before you call for help," she says. "Remove paper, boxes, furniture and roll up carpets. Throw away wet carpet pads since they are like sponges and will never dry out."
Use box fans to circulate the air. If you have standing water around your foundation or crawl space, you may need to get a sump pump to remove the water.
Casey says the cost for a professional to dry out a basement can run from $1,500 to $2,000. "It's expensive so do all that you can and don't call for help until these series of storms move through," she says.
Once you notice water damage, repair rooms promptly to prevent mold from growing and decay from spreading, say experts. The longer a water problem is left untended, the more it will expand and become more costly to fix.
With that in mind, the Oregon State University Extension Service provides a checklist to help homeowners battle storm damage. Here are some of the key points:
If you have experienced flooding or have water damage, download "Mold Removal Guidelines for Your Flooded Home" from the Louisiana State University Agricultural Center, which provides information on how to get started with your clean up and contact your local OSU Extension Office for additional information.
Homeowners are legally obligated to clear their sidewalks of ice and snow. If pedestrians slip and fall on sidewalks lining your property, you could be sued in civil court not only for their hospital bills, but their pain and suffering.
To avoid problems, remove hazardous snow and ice if possible. And while you're at it, check that the nearest storm drain is clear of debris, because when all this snow melts, the likelihood of flooding could be big.
Steimle acknowledges the debate about the damage de-icing salt can cause to concrete sidewalks and driveways. "There are not only different types of concrete that impact this issue, there are different types of salt," he says.
To prevent the chance of damaging expensive hardscapes, he recommends shoveling the snow to clear a safer walk way, and then applying a layer of sand, which doesn't melt snow or ice, but it does provide traction without effecting concrete.
Yard and trees
If a tree in your yard has already suffered damage because of the two storms that hit the Portland-metro area with snow and ice in December, consult a guide from the Arbor Day Foundation to assess if the tree will survive.
Here are ways you can prepare your yard for the next round of ice: