Will Your Building’s Roof Stand Up to Snow and Ice?

Will Your Building’s Roof Stand Up to Snow and Ice?

Will Your Building’s Roof Stand Up to Snow and Ice?

Although falling snow can make for a peaceful and picturesque scene, commercial building owners and managers have to guard against much harsher possibilities: snow-induced roof leaks or, in the most severe cases, building collapse.

Careful roof inspections and routine maintenance are important year-round, but become critical as temperatures drop and the potential for snow increases.

A Watchful Eye
One of the most important preventative measures you can take to protect a roof against snow and ice damage is inspecting it on a regular basis. If conditions allow safe access to the roof, your engineering or facilities staff should make sure roof drains are clear and operating properly, and ice isn’t accumulating near the roof’s drains or perimeter flashing. If ice forms a dam near the roof’s edge or around drains, for instance, it can damage the roof’s membrane and allow water to penetrate below the roof causing severe water damage.

The inspection should also evaluate the general condition of the roof, and should include signs of damage such as unprotected roof penetrations or bolted connections from telecommunications or solar equipment that has been installed on the roof.

Reducing Risk of Collapse
A catastrophic risk for commercial buildings is the potential for collapse if the roof is not able to support the weight of accumulated snow and ice. Older buildings, which may not have been designed for accumulated snow, and buildings with large, long expanse flat roofs — such as warehouses — may be most vulnerable to collapse.

Snow and ice pose risk to warehouses

Because the weight of snow can vary considerably according to its moisture content, there are no hard-and-fast guidelines for how much snow is too much for a roof. In general terms, though, if a storm accumulation approaches a foot, it’s a good idea to consider having snow removed from the roof’s surface.

To reduce the risk of workers damaging the roof or the potential for falls, it’s a good idea to bring in a contractor with the experience and equipment needed to remove snow safely from a roof. You should meet with the contractor, ideally long before a storm, to inspect the roof and review plans to bring equipment onto the roof and to remove accumulated snow. Important considerations are how they would remove it, ideally in an even fashion so as to prevent uneven weight distribution, and where they would place the relocated snow around the perimeter of the structure.

Those discussions should also include, for instance, the contractor’s use of fall-protection procedures and equipment, and measures to reduce the risk of people near the building being struck by blown snow or falling ice.

Signs of Danger
Property managers and tenants should also be aware of signs that a roof is overburdened with snow, such as creaking noises, windows and doors that won’t open, or the appearance of sagging in roof trusses or beams.

Snow and Ice warning signs

If any of these signs appear, evacuate the building quickly and safely, and contact your snow-removal and insurance professionals.


This post is provided by Chubb Risk Engineering ServicesChubb is one of our many A.M. Best A- or Better Rated Carriers.

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