What to Do with that Snow?: Cold-Weather Roof Maintenance

What to Do with that Snow?:

Cold-Weather Roof Maintenance

We’re in the thick of it now.

Winter can dump a whole lot of snow on the Chicagoland area. If you love winter sports, cozy nights by a fire, or even spending some time outside shoveling the white stuff, you’re in luck. Your commercial roof is not.

Your roof does not like snow. According to FEMA, fluffy snow weighs around three pounds per square foot, and wet snow can weigh up to 21 pounds per square foot. Ice, on the other hand, can weigh 57 pounds per square foot. The weight of them together puts intense pressure on a roofing system, which can lead to structural failure and an extremely dangerous situation for all those in the building.

The weight of snow and ice isn’t the only problem. When they melt, water can seep into existing cracks on the roof surface and refreeze, making those cracks even bigger. If a roof hasn’t been cleared properly of debris, that melted snow and ice can pond, again leading to leaks or potential structural issues. Snow drifts can cover rooftop mechanicals, roof access points, and air intake systems. And don’t forget ice damming, which occurs when internal heat melts ice and snow from the underside, and that water gets under the roof covering and leaks into the building.

So what to do with all that snow and ice? If you’re not a trained professional, there’s an important not-to-do list, as well as some things you can and should always do.

Do not try to walk on a snow- or ice-covered roof. If you do so, you’re risking your own safety and the structural integrity of your roof. Only inspect your roof when it’s safe to do so—when you won’t slip on an icy surface or add more weight to an already over-taxed system.

Do not try to remove built-up snow or ice with shovels, ice picks, or other sharp tools. This can cause significant damage to the roof surface and make an already existing problem a much bigger one.

So what can you do?

Do watch for signs of potential roof failure: sagging ceiling tiles, cracked walls, ceiling leaks, unusual noises. Leave the building and call a professional roofing contractor if things don’t seem right.

Do watch for signs of ice damming. Icicles forming off of gutters are one indication that you have a problem, and they pose a danger in and of themselves to people on the ground.

Do take care of things before winter sets in. The best way to deal with winter’s impact on your commercial roof is to be proactive. Make sure to periodically remove all debris from the roof surface, drains, gutters, and downspouts, especially before a storm and only when it’s safe for you to do so. This will prevent clogs that can trap water from melting snow on the roof, which can then refreeze, adding to your troubles.

Do call a professional. Conditions exist when it’s not safe for even the most trained expert to be on a roof. Don’t take any chances. Always call a professional if there’s even the smallest possibility of risk to your safety or the safety of others.

Call on the Experts

You can do some things to help your commercial roof when the weather outside is frightful. Unless you’re a professional roofing contractor, though, there are some things you should never do. When the snow piles up, contact an expert. Ridgeworth Roofing is ready.