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How Much Snow Is Too Much??

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Posted 02-06-2011 at 04:02 PM by Roy Sanborn

This was a really great week, if you like snow. Driving into Laconia on the day of the most recent of one too many snowstorms was like sledding into an Eskimo Village above the arctic circle. The main differences were that I didn’t see any polar bears lurking nearby, our igloos have flat or peaked roofs rather than round, and plow trucks were the only thing moving instead of sled dog teams. Did you know that Eskimos can heat their igloos with a whale oil lamp and their own body heat and be quite comfortable? Keep that thought for future reference (things aren’t so good in the Middle East you know). Do you know where you can buy whale oil around here?

With all the snow we have been getting, everyone is getting worried about shoveling off their roofs.

How much snow can your roof hold? Well, snow is really water in the white, fluffy, frozen form. Water has a density of 62.4 pounds per cubic foot. One inch of water creates a downward pressure of 5.2 lbs/ft² which is equivalent to 10 inches of dry, cold snow. The weight of snow can increase tremendously if the snow is wet when it falls or if it rains on top of it as it acts like a sponge. I looked on line to see what kind of snow load a roof can hold and discovered that the Army Corps of Engineers had done an extensive study of snow loads throughout NH in 2002 and had established snow loads for each town in NH. I tried to read and understand the report so I would know just how much snow was too much. It was really pretty heavy reading with lots of technical terms, calculation, charts, maps, and diagrams. I decided to take the easy way out and call Dave Andrade who is the building code enforcement officer for the Town of Gilford.

Dave, who is always extremely helpful, explained that prior to the Army Corps study the recommended snow load for buildings was 60 lbs/ft² statewide. The Town of Gilford has since adopted an 80 lbs/ft² snow load in their building code. He started to explain things like live loads (versus dead ones, I think), the fact that you can also have three feet of snow on the ground and very little on your roof because it gets blown off, or that you can have more snow in places because it drifts into valleys of the roof creating eight times the weight in that space and none in another, and that the pitch of the roof has to be taken into consideration (we all know flat roofs are worse) and so on. I was still confused about how much snow is too much. I was looking for a clear definitive answer to this age old question, which I finally got when Dave informed me that he was taking Friday off to shovel his roof. Enough said? Get someone to shovel your roof…

As of February 1, 2011 there were 940 homes on the market in the twelve towns in this Lakes Region real estate market report at an average asking price of $545,417. Those numbers are virtually unchanged from last month. The inventory is slightly higher than the 926 homes on the market last February and the average price is down from $590,214. While the current inventory level is slightly higher than last February, it does represent only a 12 month supply of homes compared to the 15 month supply last February. That is due to the fact that more homes have been selling over the past year. The showing activity has been a little slow lately just because of the endless snow and cold. But we do need to shovel a few more homes off the market before spring. If we can find them that is! Oh yes, one more point for the Eskimos. They don’t have to shovel their roofs.

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