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RV Snow Load

January 23, 2016
RV Snow Load

I decided to write this one after reading all the comments on various online forums about snow load with the 2016 blizzard hitting the US North East.   Many people were talking about getting up on the roof of their RV to clear the snow that accumulated.  Living in Canada in a snow belt area that will regularly see yearly accumulations in excess of 10 feet and single snow storms of over 3 feet every few years, we get used to this amount of snow.  Us northerners often forget that in southern climates people do not see significant snow accumulation for many years and they do not have as much experience in how to handle a large snowfall.  Here are a few things to consider before going up top:

  1. RV’s and Trailers built for Florida are built-in the same factory as the ones built for Alaska and Canada.  In many parts of Canada and Alaska it is not unusual to get 10 feet or more snow in a season (and in the mountains dozens of feet).  It is also not uncommon to get 6 feet in a single snowfall.
  2. There are many things on the roof of your RV that can be damaged by a shovel like the skylight, vents, TV antenna, solar panels etc and plastic parts are more brittle in the cold.
  3. If you are using the RV as opposed to just storing it, you need to worry about Black, Grey and Fridge vents being clear regardless of depth/load on the roof.
  4. Walking on the roof in the winter is much more dangerous than in the summer as it is far more slippery and there are lots of trip/slip hazards hidden under the snow.
  5. During a crippling storm, emergency services are seriously overworked and have trouble getting around just like you.  For this reason a fall from the roof could result in emergency services not being able to reach you for an extended period of time.

Despite having large snowfalls, I do not clear my roof during the winter and I know no one else who does.  I have also never heard of a roof failing due to snow load in this part of Canada.  Here is my thoughts on clearing snow off the roof:

  1. take a picture of your roof before the snow so you know where all the vents, antennas and skylights are located that could potentially get damaged.
  2. if you are living in the RV, clear the Black, Gray and Fridge vents regularly so they are not obstructed.
  3. if you plan on moving the RV, clear as much of the snow as you safely can.  A full snow cover several feet deep, flying off at highway speeds could be fatal to the driver behind you, it is also illegal to NOT clear snow before moving a vehicle in many regions.
  4. If not moving it or living in it, I do not even think about clearing unless I can no longer see the AC shroud.
  5. Clear snow from a ladder beside the RV using a snow rake.  Using a shovel could damage the rubber roof surface and climbing on a slippery roof is very risky.
  6. Dry snow is easier to clear during or immediately after a snowfall as it is often more fluffy and lighter.  Dry snow will compact and become more dense and ice will form at the bottom of the snow pack making it more difficult to remove after a day or so.
  7. Very wet snow is extremely heavy and it is not unheard of to injure your back or have a heart attack shoveling it.  If the temperature is going down after a wet snowfall, it will turn to solid ice and be nearly impossible to remove.

When you do have to deal with excess snow, I have found that the best tool is a Snow Rake.  They typically have a sold rubber blade that you use to pull the snow off the roof from ground level or from a ladder.  The soft rubber is less likely to cause damage to hardware on the roof and they eliminate the need to get up on the roof where you can fall.

From → RV Tech

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