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March 12, 2015

When Heavy Snow Sets on Commercial Rooftops – Special Challenges

The accumulation of snow on rooftops can cause severe damage to commercial buildings. Since such buildings often have flat wide-span rooftops, they are likely to suffer roof damage and collapse more frequently than homes. We put together a list of essential roof damage prevention tips for commercial buildings. Here’s what we recommend:

Inspecting the roof.  The roof’s integrity must be monitored year-round and all  deficiencies repaired. Close attention should be paid to the areas with previous structural damage.

Monitoring warning signs. The structure may be in danger of collapsing when you hear cracking noises or notice sagging in the ceiling. Cracks in walls or windows and doors that won’t open properly are significant clues.

Checking the roof’s drains. When the drains are not maintained, melting snow can penetrate through the roof and cause water damage, or it may pool and add significant weight, overloading the roof’s structure.

Using the right tools. Never use a metal shovel. A 2-inch layer of snow should be left on the roof, to prevent damage to roofing membrane, hidden wires and other equipment.

Removing snow preemptively. A good rule is to remove snow when it gets to be 12 inches high. Start by removing snow around equipment, at elevation changes, parapets and other non-flat structures. The remaining snow should be shoveled from the roof center towards the edges.

Being aware of ice dams. When a roof is slightly pitched, ice dams can form at the edges of the roof, preventing melted snow from draining off the roof and forcing it to penetrate through roof cracks or openings, causing water damage.

Preventing ice dams. Ice dams occur when the temperature outside is below -5 °C and the attic/roof temperature is above -1 °C. The best way to prevent the snow from melting and refreezing is proper ventilation and insulation to keep the roof “cool”.

Removing ice dams. The entire roof must be shoveled before the ice buildup can be removed. Ice melt products or a long roof rake should be used while standing on the ground. However, because of the risks involved (damage to the roof and personal injuries), and the need for special equipment, it is recommended you hire a trained contractor to do the job.

It is important to take preventive measures for dealing with snow storms that may damage a building’s rooftop integrity. We recommend using experienced employees or an outside contractor that specializes in roof maintenance and snow/ice removal. If water damage has occurred, contact your local PuroClean office immediately. We will mitigate the loss to prevent further damage and restore your property to pre-loss condition as quickly as possible. 

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