Timing Is Everything: Winterizing a Commercial Roof for Ice and Snow
You’re already late if the first snowfall of the season is a signal to prepare your roof for winter.
You don’t have to be a Game of Thrones fan to be concerned that winter is coming – but it’s not zombies or dragons that keep commercial property owners from sleeping well at night. A particularly cold winter with extra snow – such as the one experienced by the east coast in 2014-2015 – can create losses of $5 billion or more.
Getting your commercial property roof ready for winter starts with preventative maintenance. Here’s what you need to know.
Repair and prepare
What you do before the snow starts is just as important as your procedures afterward. It begins with a thorough inspection. Roofs don’t get better with age. An assessment by a commercial roof professional can help connect the dots. It’s more than just finding issues. It’s knowing what materials are covered by warranties. Insurance isn’t the complete solution. An aged building roof with material out of warranty may be cause for your insurance company to deny a damage claim caused by winter snows.
Pre-winter roof inspections also allow you to ensure that HVAC and other rooftop systems haven’t impacted integrity. This becomes even more important if you’ve recently had mechanical contractors on the roof to perform maintenance on these systems. Repairs to HVAC equipment might have caused unintentional damage to the roof.
You likely have regular clean-ups of your property grounds, but how often do you send someone up on the roof to check for accumulation of natural debris and man-made trash that can blow out of dumpsters? These deposits can cause rapid deterioration to roofing materials.
Low spots where water collects or pools on flat roofs is a warm-weather indication of winter problems. The fact that your flat roof is repelling the water is good, but these accumulations will degrade the adhesives used in flat roofing material over time. You might not have leaks now, but you will in the future. The winter months will magnify the problem. Here’s how:
- If you have water pooling in warm weather, you’ll likely have ice build-up during winter months. The general estimate is that approximately 12 inches of snow weighs the same as just one inch of water or ice, which weighs about five pounds per square foot. During winter months, this water may remain frozen and not evaporate the way it could in warm weather. The additional constant weight could compromise your roof’s structural integrity or damage the membrane.
- Ice formations move as portions melt and then refreeze. If this process is enough to split rocks, consider what it can do to the roof membrane.
According to Roofing magazine, it’s not uncommon to see pooling water even on recently installed roofs. It’s a clear sign to take immediate action. This article suggests ways to take care of the problem. Often, it’s a matter of improving drainage – which means you also may need to work with plumbing professionals, as well.
The right calculations
The default conclusion about hearing the word “calculations” might lead you to think about the complicated mathematical equations involved in snow loads. It’s a consideration, but that comes into play at a time when it might be too late.
Start with the calculation of a return on the investment of engaging a commercial roofing inspector. What you’ll pay to identify potential wintertime hazards could be a fraction of the cost of repair done by a heavy winter storm – or even the gradual accumulation of regular winter snow.
It’s not just the price of damage repair. There’s the liability responsibility to your commercial tenants, who will lose business if they’re unable to conduct business. Colorado West insurance notes that a common cause for roof collapse is due to repeated weather patterns producing a cycle of two events: a rapid freeze followed by a rapid thaw. The cycling produces additional stress – especially on flat roofs that lack the pitch to facilitate runoff.
Find out the next step based on the role you have as a consultant, facility manager, or property manager. Peck Brothers Roofing has the right team for the job. Contact us to help get your roof ready for the cold winter months.