Snow load on flat roof.

Snowstorms aren’t just a good excuse to drink your weight in hot chocolate and call off work for the day. They can be cause for concern when it comes to the safety and integrity of your commercial structure.

In this post, we’ll tell you the best ways to handle the issue of heavy snow and discuss how to connect with top roofing professionals who can help not only complete flat roof snow removal, but also inspect and maintain your roof throughout the year.

Keep Your Roof Safe

While heavy snow can certainly be enjoyable, if you own or operate a business, those days also come with a certain amount of risk. Yes, you already know that shoveling your parking lot and sidewalk is important, but you should also be aware of the serious impact a heavy snow load can have on your roof!

1. Recognize the Signs of Trouble

The most important factor in preventing snow load issues is to recognize the signs to watch out for.

How much weight can a roof support during a serious snowstorm?

A good rule of thumb is about 20 pounds per square inch (aka removal is a good idea if accumulation climbs near 10 to 12 inches) for a structure with a low roof pitch.

Anything heavier than that and you’re looking at potential damage or even the possibility of collapse, making flat roof snow removal an absolute necessity.

What are some signs that your roof is holding more snow than is safe?

If you notice any leaking, bent pipes, or new cracks in walls or ceiling, you’ll need to act quickly. The same applies if you realize that you’re struggling to open and close your windows and doors because they don’t seem to fit correctly. Keep an eye out for deflection, or when the roof structure starts to sag.

Finally, the most obvious sign of serious danger is hearing a popping or cracking sound coming from the ceiling. Such sounds could signal impending collapse, and in these cases, evacuate the building immediately.

Call For Help

It’s always a good idea to talk with a structural engineer who can help assess your flat roof snow load. A great starting point is to use a snow load calculator. It’s also worth taking a look at the ASCE 7- design parameters regarding structural design loads for dead, live, soil, flood, tsunami, snow, rain, ice, seismic and wind loads. This is established by the American Society of Civil Engineers.

2. Take Preventative Action

When’s the best time to prepare for the weight of snow load problems?

Before they happen, of course!

It’s important to keep in mind that your roof can only support so much snow. There are different types of loads.

    • Live loads – Temporary loads, like construction workers working on a roof, or snow, wind or seismic events.
    • Dead loads – Permanent weight, such as shingles.
    • Ground snow load – A snow depth prediction based on data measured in pounds per square foot.
    • Design snow load – Peak snow accumulation on a roof throughout the winter season.

If you take preventative action now, you’ll end up saving yourself tons of money later against ice dams and snow drifts, and the havoc they could cause you.

For rule of thumb, a fluffy, light and dry snow weighs about 4 pounds per square foot, or psf. Average snow is about 6 pounds per psf, and heavy, dense, wet snow is nearly 13 psf.

Remember that just because you can’t yet see the signs of trouble mentioned above, that doesn’t mean that they aren’t there.

A professional can recognize the earliest indications of a problem—and stop any issues before they get worse. They can also help you to determine if your current roof type can continue to support the amount of snowfall that you’re likely to encounter based on where you live.

Ask them about the best time to make a change to the type of materials or even general design of your roof to increase its overall resistance to snow.

3. Take Melting Snow into Account

Many commercial building owners are so focused on their roofs withstanding actual snowfall that they completely overlook the very real threat of melting ice.

On a flat roof, ice can build up at an alarming rate, especially when a series of storms continue to melt and refreeze the region. Additionally, high winds can allow water to penetrate the roofing surface, which can ultimately damage not only the roof itself but also everything underneath it.

4. Consider Snow Removal

Of course, the best way to deal with roof snow load – the downward force of your roof from both accumulated snow and ice – is to get as much of it off as quickly as possible. This is especially important if you don’t have a gable roof,

While you might think you can do it yourself, you could end up causing more damage than the snow itself, not to mention endangering yourself due to a lack of knowledge and safety materials.

Instead, rely on the expertise of a professional, commercial roofing company to remove inches of snow and ice quickly and safely. They are often available for emergency situations, responding efficiently and preventing further damage or disaster.

Neglecting snow removal of your flat roof structure (or even a slightly sloped roof) could not only lead to snow buildup and compromise structural design of the building, but it can lead to additional leaks. Melting snow that refreezes expands, causing cracks.

Other Ways to Stop a Roof Collapse

What are some other easy ways to prevent snow and ice damage to your business or commercial building?

First, make consistent roof maintenance a part of your regular routine, and address necessary repairs as soon as possible.

Second, make sure that you take the time to properly clean obstructions out of your gutters, especially after a snow or rainstorm. Also, clear your downspouts of any twigs, leaves or other debris.

Although they can be beautiful to look at, keep an eye on icicles. These form when ice dams occur along the eaves of your roof. Ice dams are a result of poor ventilation or insulation.

Snow Load on Roof? We Can Help

From recognizing signs of trouble to knowing how much of a snow load a roof design can hold, we hope that this post has helped you to learn more about how to keep your building safe in a storm.

Remember to watch out for the potential signs of collapse and call a professional snow removal service if you suspect trouble. Don’t try to do it yourself.

Get in touch with us today to request service or to schedule a routine inspection. No matter what sort of roofing issue you’re dealing with, we want to help you to solve it as soon as possible to ensure you’re in compliance with building codes.