The following business is not for everyone. Shoveling snow from the roof of a house is extremely dangerous. Essentially, you’re standing on an icy surface while trying to shovel snow from a sloped roof. I would caution anyone about getting into this business unless you’ve had experience using fall arrest systems and/or you have experience in the roofing industry. You can be injured or killed if you fall off the edge of a roof – and it can all happened in a split second. Once you lose your footing on a snowy/icy roof, you have no chance at all to stop yourself from sliding over the edge. I’ll even go a step further and suggest that you not attempt to walk on any roof at all. There are alternate methods for getting rid of that snow and I’ll talk about some of them in this article.
Now, on with the article:
People who live in areas that experience heavy snowfall amounts in the winter, must always consider how much snow is sitting on the roof of their house. Snow is heavy and most roofs are only designed to hold 30 to 50 pounds per square inch. Depending on the consistency of the snow and how much water its holding, it may not take much to exceed the structural limitations of the building.
Gentle and flat sloping roofs present the biggest challenge to the homeowner. The flatter the roof, the more snow is going to accumulate. If you’ve got a fairly steep pitch to your roof, most of the snow is going to blow off and it’s generally not a concern for this type of structure.
Obviously, if there is an excessive amount of snow on the roof of a home, some of it has to be removed to reduce the weight and chances of the roof collapsing. Herein lies the problem: not many homeowners are going to take it upon themselves to set up a ladder in the middle of winter and climb onto an icy roof to shovel off snow.
This doesn’t fall under the classification of routine home maintenance. As mentioned in the above warning, you’re risking your life by attempting such a thing. Here’s where the professional roof shoveler comes in. This individual will have all the necessary experience, equipment and safety gear to ensure that the job is done in an efficient and safe manner.
If you decide to get into this business, you will be able to get started with nothing more than a few ladders, some shovels, and the appropriate safety gear. This is one of the highest per hour businesses anywhere. Of course, it’s high paying because it’s so risky. While prices vary greatly from region to region, you should be able to make between $50-$100 per hour while you’re working – that rate is per person. It’s not unusual to charge $300 and up for a larger house. A lot of this depends on the type of snow, the depth of snow, the area of the roof, and the accessibility and risk factor involved. That $300 will typically be the price for a decent sized one-story bungalow with an average to above-average amount of snow on the roof.
As I mentioned at the beginning of this article, shoveling snow from an icy roof is one of the most dangerous jobs out there. In fact, you are going to have a problem finding an insurance company that’s willing to provide liability insurance for your fledgling business. On top of that, workers compensation insurance for this type of work falls under the same category as demolition work and roofing. There is no occupation that has a higher rate than this.
Looking at this business from a safety perspective, you’ll be pleased to know that most of your jobs will be gentle slope bungalows. Almost all two-story and three-story homes have steeper roofs and any loose snow also blows off at that height. For this reason, I would highly suggest that you stick to one story homes. For the 10% of two and three-story homes that you’ll get called for, it’s not worth the risk. There’s nothing wrong with turning down jobs like that. Leave those customers for the professional roofers who are better equipped and trained to handle such jobs. By the way, if you think that $50 per hour is high, you haven’t seen anything until you see what a professional roofer will charge.
Always follow proper ladder placement procedures and be sure that your ladder is set up properly. The fact that you’ll be setting up in snow or on an icy surface, means that there is no room for error and sloppy safety procedures. You should have special spiked attachments that dig into ice attached to your ladder. Don’t rely on the rubber feet.
Once you’re on the roof, stay as far away from the edge as possible and take each step with caution. Be especially mindful of areas that have been cleared already, as these have a tendency to be extremely slippery. At least when you’re standing in snow, you’ve got a little traction. If you feel yourself sliding out of control towards the edge of the roof, make every effort to “jump” into a snow bank. Fortunately, if you’ve been called to shovel a roof, there is likely a good deal of snow on the ground and you may be able to survive a one-story fall if you don’t end up on a sidewalk or driveway.
I have seen roof shoveling crews that wear mountain climbing helmets while up on the roof. Silly? Not really, considering the fact that you are at risk of a severe head injury if you fall over the edge.
Now that I’ve scared everyone off, I’m going to let you in on a little secret that will allow you to remove the snow from most roofs without climbing a ladder. There are specialty shovels/ roof rakes that can be attached to a pole and operated from the ground. Most of these cut blocks of snow and use the slope of the roof and gravity to bring the snow down. In other words, they slice under the snow and on both sides to free the block enough so that it topples to the ground. From what I’ve seen, they seem to be extremely effective. All more reason to only accept one-story homes. Do an online search to find companies that sell roof rakes and shovels because they will also likely stock these devices.
I don’t recommend that anyone attempt to access a roof in the wintertime. Personally, I would buy the necessary equipment to work from the ground – it’s not that expensive.
After you’ve got the proper equipment, it’s simply a matter of putting a small classified ad in your local paper. If you don’t have the money for that, try flyering a neighborhood consisting of mobile homes. Most of these roofs are flat, or nearly flat, and are definitely not designed to handle any excess weight. Try walking the neighborhood and advertising your services after a few significant snow falls. Just a note: never attempt to walk on the roof of a mobile home.
One last point I’d like to make is that shoveling snow from a roof is extremely strenuous and tiring. You will certainly be working for your money like you’ve never worked before. If you’ve never shoveled snow from a roof, you’ll be able to relate after your first job.
So there you have it: a high hourly rate for a short season can mean a lot of extra money in your pocket. That, plus the fact that you can purchase specialized equipment that will keep you on the ground, makes this business very attractive.