How Snow Loads Affect Flat Roofs on Commercial and Recreational Structures

Avoid Structural and Safety Issues from Snow Accumulation on Your Flat Roof

Snow piled up on flat roof of a commercial buildingIn the construction of commercial and recreational structures/complexes, the installation of flat roofing offers several distinct advantages over the traditional pitched/sloped roofs of residential properties.  Flat roofs are generally easier to install that pitched roofs, can be installed in less time, and are comparatively easy to maintain, thereby providing both short-term and long-term cost savings for commercial/recreational property managers and owners.

Regrettably, flat roofs can also be a source of concern with respect to personal injuries and structural damage that can occur when snow accumulation is not addressed with the requisite urgency, or in the appropriate manner, throughout the winter season.  If left unchecked or unattended, the weight of accumulated snow can be particularly harmful to people and property, especially if it is exposed to repeated freeze-and-thaw cycles which can then lead to the formation, and the additional weight, of ice layers and/or ice dams.

Although the winter to this point has been somewhat mild and devoid of any major snow accumulation, building owners and managers should not be lulled into a false sense of security when their roofs are eventually/inevitably subjected to snow loads.  Diligence in terms of monitoring snow and ice on a flat roof should remain a high priority throughout the winter, and while physical inspection may be the best course of action after a storm, there can be several visual clues inside and outside a building suggestive that something is amiss on the roof – these would include:

  • Sagging or cracks in the ceiling
  • Evidence of moisture penetration
  • Bowing/buckling of walls or beams
  • Vertically-deflected lighting or sprinklers
  • Displaced tiles/straps of suspended ceilings
  • Significant icicle formation along roof edges
  • Chunks of ice/snow falling onto the pavement

A lack of attention to the monitoring and removal of snow loads from a flat roof can/will result in extensive and likely quite expensive structural repairs in relation to:

  • Substructure of the building
  • Partial or total roof collapses
  • Water damage from leaks/ice dams
  • Damage to roofing materials/membranes
  • Impairment of HVAC, plumbing, electrical systems

Moreover, failure to address snow removal from a flat roof can have serious implications with respect to:

  • Safety risks for building occupants and passersby
  • Liabilities pertaining to insurance coverage and claims
  • Accountability regarding non-adherence to building codes

Clearly, snow loads can have significant tangible/structural effects on flat roofing itself as well as the infrastructure of a commercial or recreational building.  The accumulation of snow on a flat roof can also result in severe financial consequences and personal injury.

Protective Measures Must Be Taken When Removing Snow, Ice from Flat Roofs

A man Shoveling snow from the RoofThe removal of accumulated snow from a flat roof is not only non-negotiable, but it must also be done with the proper techniques and equipment to safeguard the integrity of the roof and the personal safety of the parties performing the actual snow removal work. For such reasons, property managers and owners may wish to call upon the snow removal services of the flat roofing experts from Avenue Road Roofing.

Snow removal from a flat roof is somewhat different than clearing snow from a paved or hardened surface.  Flat roofing materials are generally softer in texture and hence more vulnerable to damage if more traditional ground-level snow removal methods are used.

Professionals like the team from Avenue Road Roofing understand the delicate aspects to clearing accumulated snow and ice from flat roof surfaces, and as such, will employ the following protective measures when contracted to provide this snow removal service:

  • Clearing away snow to approximately one inch above surface of the roof
  • Appropriate choice of equipment – soft aluminum and plastic versus metal
  • Deliberate removal of ice dams; steps taken to prevent future occurrences
  • Use of de-icing/melting products only if/when compatible with roof material
  • Snow disposal – extraction from the roof and, if needed, transport from site
  • Identifying vent/pipe locations; cautious snow removal around these objects
  • Creating a perimeter around building for the safety of pedestrians/occupants

Flat roofs and their respective structures are especially susceptible to damage from snow accumulation.  For safe and effective snow removal from your flat roof this winter, call the experienced professionals from Avenue Road Roofing today at 416-785-5129 to discuss the scheduling of this service into your winter maintenance plans.