An area rarely looks as beautiful as when it’s blanketed in a fresh snowfall but that pristine white coating of snow can have sinister effects on the roof of your commercial building.
Unlike residential roofs, which can count on their slope and gravity to help lighten their load, snow on a flat or low-slope commercial roof isn’t going anywhere. And while snowflakes may feel fluffy and insubstantial when you catch them on your tongue, in large quantities they can quickly become far heavier than your commercial roof can handle.
So just how heavy can snow get? Well, 1 foot of light, powdery snow on your commercial roof adds about 5 pounds per square foot to its total load. That doesn’t sound like much until you do the math and realize that, for a 10,000 sq. ft. roof, that’s an additional 25 tons of snow load to support!
A foot of heavier, wetter snow can add 10-20 lbs per square foot (so up to 100 tons of snow for that same 10,000 sq. ft. roof) and a foot of snow that’s been through one or more freeze/thaw cycles can add as much as 60 lbs per square foot. That’s 300 TONS of snow on our hypothetical roof!
So what can you do to protect your roof from this dangerous additional weight? Well, as with most things concerning your commercial roof, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. That’s why our first recommendation is to have your roof inspected by a professional in the fall. This way any vulnerabilities or problem areas can be addressed before severe weather hits.
You’ll also want to check out the areas surrounding your roof for potential hazards. Anything that could present a threat to your roof in the event of high winds or the addition of ice or snow (trees with dead or low-hanging branches for example) should be taken care of before they get the chance to cause damage.
The next step in preparing your commercial roof for a rough winter is to be sure you have a snow monitoring and removal plan in place before the season starts. And, by this, we mean a plan that involves roofing professionals. Not your building’s janitorial staff or the snow removal service you hired to do your grandmother’s driveway for her!
Unless these folks can prove they have the proper training for working specifically on commercial roofs, we’re talking about hiring actual commercial roofing professionals for your building’s snow removal needs. It’s imperative, for both the integrity of your roof and the safety of the removal crew, that your commercial roof’s snow load be addressed by people who understand the unique materials beneath all the white stuff.
Workers who are unfamiliar with the ins and outs of commercial roofing materials run the risk of damaging them by using tools like metal shovels or ice picks or even by wearing improper footwear. Removing the additional weight from your commercial roof won’t do you much good if your roof looks like a pincushion when you’re done!
Hiring non-experts can also leave you exposed financially, first by running the risk of voiding your warranty and second by increasing the likelihood of injury. Workers may be unfamiliar with the slippery nature of some commercial roofing materials and the proper safety precautions they may require, putting them at greater risk of an accident.
Most commercial roofing contractors offer winter maintenance and snow removal services. Calling a trusted roofing professional is the smartest (and safest) way to lighten your roof’s load without risking damage to it and your wallet.
Our final recommendation is to be proactive and review your roof’s insurance coverage and warranty information ahead of time. This information should be stored together, along with the contact information for your commercial roofing professional, and kept in an easily accessible location.
Winter roofing emergencies can catch you by surprise. By reviewing your coverage ahead of time and knowing where to easily find the documents and contact information you need, you’ll be less panicked if an emergency does arise. It also gives you the opportunity to catch any gaps in coverage before it’s too late to fix them!
Winter can be a tough time for a commercial roof but these simple preparations are your best bet for avoiding negative outcomes from harsh weather. If you don’t already have plans in place like the ones mentioned here, there’s no better time to start than today!