There’s a Roof Collapse Epidemic in Massachusetts

Heavy snow accumulation has caused lots of buildings to cave in.

Roof collapses are a cause for much concern this month, and no wonder. They’re an epidemic. Gov. Charlie Baker tweeted out a map showing 58 roof collapses in Massachusetts since February 9, due to the rather insane amounts of snow the region has received in that time. At this point, it’s basically news that your roof hasn’t collapsed.

Roof collapses are, on the one hand, pretty predictable. Buildings can only handle so much weight (often about 30 pounds per square foot, according to Accuweather.) A vengeful god (or a pissed off Disney princess) continues to make it snow in New England. Historic buildings like this one in Hingham couldn’t take the pressure.

On the other hand, collapse can be a little tough to predict because not every inch of snow weighs the same. It depends on the water content. What’s more, snow drifts can lead to uneven distribution of weight on your roof, making collapse more likely. Worse, if it starts to rain, the lighter, fluffier snow will act like a sponge, absorbing the heavy water to ensure that all of it lands in your attic.

So, with all that added risk in mind, MEMA has issued guidelines for building owners with a lot of snow on their roofs who hope to clear some of it. Some of them are obvious. Don’t put your own weight on the roof unless you’re sure it won’t collapse. Some are helpful. Rake snow from the roof from the outside in.

All of it comes from a concern that just because your roof survived several absurd bouts of snowfall, it may not survive the next one unless you start clearing some of the past snowfall from it.