Steele County Extension office shares tips to avoid roof collapses from snow on agricultural buildings - Owatonna MN: Community

  • Welcome!
    Logout|My Dashboard

Steele County Extension office shares tips to avoid roof collapses from snow on agricultural buildings

Font Size:
Default font size
Larger font size

Posted: Monday, December 24, 2012 1:07 pm | Updated: 2:56 pm, Fri Dec 28, 2012.

STEELE COUNTY — It looks like 2012-13 could be a year for the Midwest to get hit by heavy snow and ice storms, which can leave large amounts of snow and ice on roofs of agricultural buildings. The recent large snowfall left over a foot of snow and ice on roofs in central Minnesota, but fortunately most of that snow came off roofs during the warmer temperatures that followed. With colder temperatures expected, we cannot count on future snowfalls sliding off. Trusses and rafters must support the increased weight, or roofs may collapse.

University of Minnesota Extension advises that even agricultural buildings with well-designed roofs cannot take excessive (greater than 4 to 6 ft.) amounts of snow. What is a “safe” amount of snow to have on your roof over an extended period of time? An educated guess for the upper Midwest (where snow loads are typically at least 20 lbs. per square ft.) would be 4 ft. of dry snow or 2 ft. of wet heavy snow and ice.

The following factors affect the amount of snow that can build up on a roof. They include:

• roof pitch - snow will not easily slide off flatter roofs (3/12 pitch or less)

• drifting - wind blowing snow around other buildings and trees can create huge snow drifts and uneven snow loads

• ”lean-to” or roofs on other lower buildings that “receive” snow or ice sliding off another roof above it

• shingled or roof decks which do not shed snow and ice as easily as metal roofs

• roof valleys or roof areas which collect a lot of snow

What should be done if your building exceeds the above mentioned “safe” snow depths? The simple answer is to get it off as soon as possible. Generally, there is some time between a large snowfall event and possible structural failure. One way to remove snow from a roof is to physically get up on the roof and shovel off the snow. There obviously is a human safety concern of falling off the roof when working on a snow covered and icy roof. Use ladders, safety ropes and take necessary precautions. Hire a professional if possible.

Other alternatives are the use of snow rakes or specialty tools that can be used from the ground or from portable scaffolding. Use extreme caution when working near overhead electrical power lines. Also avoid excessive scraping on the roof or trying to chip off ice. These practices can damage the roof and lead to leaks.

There are other methods of removing snow and ice from roofs. One involves warming the inside of the building sufficiently with large heaters to melt the ice layer, and then waiting for the snow and ice to slide off. Obviously, a lot of heat is necessary for even a moderately-sized building, and it must be an open-trussed structure (no flat ceiling), and have an uninsulated metal roof. Caution is necessary to prevent large chunks of ice and snow that slide off the roof from falling on people, animals or equipment. For flat-ceiling buildings, putting heaters in the attic is generally not recommended because of the fire danger and the possibility of creating ice dams along the building's eaves.

A preventive measure to avoid excessive snow on building roofs in future years is to have effective snow fences and or tree (shelterbelts) windbreak for farmsteads and/or agricultural buildings. Some of the buildings’ roofs that have failed in past years were located either too close to shelterbelts and/or windbreaks or there were no protections for the buildings at all.

When placing a snow fence or tree windbreak, remember that the protected area downwind will generally be 10 to 15 times the height of the shelterbelt or fence. Research in Canada has shown that an 80-percent solid fence distributes the snow more evenly and gives better protection downwind than a solid fence. (If 1 x 10” boards are used, you would vertically space them 2.5 in. apart or with 1 x 8” boards the spacing would be 2 in.) As an example, a 12-ft. high windbreak fence (80 percent solid) will protect from 120 to 180 ft. downwind. Most of the snow will drop within the first 30 to 40 ft. immediately downwind of the fence/trees or roughly within the first 25 percent of the protected area.

Leaving an area or space for snow to accumulate is very important when locating a machine shed or livestock building downwind from a shelterbelt. If the building is too close it will be within this snow drop area, and if too far from the windbreak it will be outside of the wind protection zone.

Hopefully, the 2012-13 winter will provide some opportunity for the accumulated ice and snow on roofs to melt or slide off, but if we receive above normal snowfalls with cold temperatures, monitor the snow load situation on agricultural buildings and take appropriate action. Check high risks areas and please be extremely careful.

For more information about protecting your home and landscape from winter damage, visit and click on “Winter Damage.”

Larry D. Jacobson and Kevin A. Janni are agricultural engineers with University of Minnesota Extension.

© 2014 All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

  • Discuss

Welcome to the discussion.

Reader ToolBox

Forms, Contests and Special Content

Owatonna Peoples Press Forms

Contact Us


Ron Ensley, Editor and Publisher, 507-444-2367,


Debbie Ensley, Advertising Director, 507-444-2386,

Betty Frost, Advertising Assistant, 507-444-2389,

Beth Barrett, Advertising Consultant, 507-444-2383,

Diane Gengler, Advertising Consultant, 507-444-2385,

Aaron Louks,  Advertising Consultant, 507-444-2388,

David Weeks, Advertising Consultant, 507-444-2384,

Bonnie Nguyen, Classified Ad-Visor, 507-444-2397,

Danielle Schmitz, Classified Ad-Visor, 507-444-2396,


Carol Harvey, Circulation Manager, 507-444-1561,

Crystal Grovdahl, District Manager, 507-444-2362,

Melissa Johnston, District Manager, 507-444-2361,


Jeffrey Jackson, Managing Editor, 507-444-2371,

Tony Borreson, Chief Copy Desk Editor, 507-444-2373,

Kelli Lageson, Copy Desk/Paginator, 507-444-2377,

Ashley Stewart, Reporter, 507-444-2378,

Al Strain, Reporter, 507-444-2376,

Matt Hudson, Reporter, 507-44-2372,

Stacie Rions, Editorial Assistant, 507-444-2379,

Obituary Notices, 507-444-2370, or

Kaleb Roedel, Sports Editor, 507-444-2374,

Jon Weisbrod, Sports Reporter, 507-444-2374,


Kelly Kubista, Creative Services Supervisor, 507-444-2391,

Jenine Kubista, print/web ad design, 507-444-2390,

Paul Ristau, print/web ad design, 507-444-1563,

Naomi Kissling, print/web ad designer, 507-837-5452,

Nicole Gilmore, print/web ad designer, 507-444-1565,

Keeley Krebsbach, print/web ad designer, 507-444-1564


Dianna Schmidt, Bookkepper, 507-444-2365,

Paula Engebretson, Bookkeeper, 507-444-2364,

The Owatonna People's Press is published daily Tuesday-Saturday.

Business hours are 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday.

Phone: (507) 451-2840

Fax: (507) 444-2382

Mail: 135 W. Pearl St.

Owatonna, MN 55060


To start a subscription to the Owatonna People’s Press call 507-444-2360, 24 hours a day. Or email your name, address, and phone number to

Ask for EZ Pay-a time saving way to pay for your subscription. Through monthly automatic withdrawals from your checking or savings account or have your monthly charge applied to your credit card you will save time and ensure no interruption of your newspaper delivery.

Current rates are 12 weeks $42.60; 24 weeks $85.20; 52 weeks $184.60. EZ Pay $15.38 per month.

If you do not receive your paper by 6:30 a.m. Tuesday through Friday and 7 a.m. on Saturday, call our Customer service department at 507-444-2361 between 7 a.m. and 4 p.m. Monday through Friday and 7 a.m. to 10 a.m. on Saturday.


If you have a news tip, call the Editorial department at 444-2370. Call 24 hours a

day. Our fax number for press releases is 451-6020.

Sports-available 4 p.m. to 9 p.m. at 444-2374.

You may also email photos and story ideas to




Call 24 hours a day

E-mail -

Retail...... 444-2389 Fax....... 444-2382

Email -


The Customer Service Center is located inside the main entrance at 135 W. Pearl

Street. We are open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday.


- USPS ISSN 416-200 -

Periodicals postage paid at Owatonna, Minnesota 55060.

Postmaster: Send address changes to Owatonna People's Press, 135 W.

Pearl St., Owatonna, MN 55060

©2013 Owatonna People's Press:

The Owatonna People's Press retains the publication rights to all content

produced or supplied by the Owatonna People's Press.

Use of said materials without the written consent of the Owatonna

People's Press is prohibited. Contents copyrighted: all rights reserved.

The Owatonna People's Press is a division of Huckle Media, LLC.

Online poll


Pro Picks

Follow us on Facebook