The power of snow…

We have a ski place in Skykomish. Given that it's only at 1000 feet of altitude and we don't get much snow at our house at about 300', you wouldn't think that there would be much snow at the ski place.

You would be wrong.

In February of the first winter, I was walking around, and came across a scrap of 2" ABS plastic. Hmm, must be left over from the construction. But why is it on top of the snow? And why is the end jagged?

Well, it turns out that it was one of the vent pipes from roof, broken off from the accumulated pressure.

It's hard to get a good estimate of how much weight there was from the snow above the vent, but my guess is that there was at least several hundred pounds pressing on that pipe.

I contacted a good roofer, and he put on some roof jacks - braces that attach to the metal roof, and guide the snow around the pipe. That worked fine for the winter of 2002-2003, when there was little snow. But as the water-filled paint stalactite and puddle on the hardwood that I found last weekend attests, it wasn't enough for last winter's snow, which totally ripped one of the jacks off.

After consulting with a roofer, I've decided to go for the "gold" cure. We (and by "we", I mean the roofer I hired) are going to pull off the roof panels, cut open the roof, and re-route the vent pipes so that they come out the ridge, like they would have if my plumber had clue1 about putting a roof on in snow country. It won't be cheap, but it will be done.

Oh, the joys of home ownership.

Comments (8)

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  1. Mike Powell says:

    I think it’s more likely that ice/snow sliding down the roof sheared off your vent pipe. Any backpressure accumulating in the vents would almost certainly be exhausted by blowing the water out of your sink traps. At any rate, relocating them to the ridge is a great idea!

  2. Eric Gunnerson says:


    I agree – I meant the pressure of the snow against the pipes.

  3. Jim Argeropoulos says:

    You might look into using a Studor vent instead. I just put one in my basement retrofit exercise. No need to vent outside of the house.

  4. Mike Powell says:

    Sorry about that Eric–as a former mechanical engineer, when I hear someone say pressure and pipes in the same sentence I immediately assume they’re talking about pressure IN the pipe!

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