Snow Accumulation On Flat Roofs Can Lead To Structural And Safety Issues

Flat RoofsInstalling flat roofs on commercial or industrial buildings/complexes offers a number of advantages to property managers and owners. Flat roofing is usually easier/faster to install and maintain than sloped roofs, thereby reducing overall costs both initially and in the longer-term.

Unfortunately, flat roofs can also be a source of concern with respect to water leaks and related structural damage if appropriate maintenance practices are not observed. With the winter weather lurking around the corner, proper flat roofing maintenance should include attention to, and removal of, excessive snow and ice accumulation.

Since flat roofing is often less visible/more difficult to inspect from ground level than a sloped roof, snow accumulation on the flat surface may go unnoticed or unattended for a substantial period of time. In such cases, property owners run the risk of both structural damage and safety issues, for building occupants and/or passersby, if the weight of the snow (and likely ice too) becomes excessive (greater than building code standards) and hence results in:

  • Roof failures (structural issues)
  • A partial or total roof collapse
  • Interior water damage due to leaks/ice dams
  • Danger from falling chunks of snow and/or ice

There are several signs that a flat roof may be under duress from snow accumulation. These indicators are noticeable from the inside of the building/structure and will include:

  • Sudden and very obvious leaks
  • Cracks in the ceiling
  • Walls that have shifted out of alignment
  • Visible sagging/bowing in walls/ceilings
  • Peeling or discoloured paint or plaster

To further complicate matters, winter temperatures in Toronto and the GTA customarily produce several freezing-and-thawing cycles. Since melted snow may not dissipate as readily/easily from flat roofing as it can/will from sloped roofs, such temperature cycles can create a layering effect of snow upon ice upon snow upon ice, which can add even more weight and stress to a flat roof even though the total build-up may not appear to be very deep or thick.

The accumulation of snow or layered snow-and-ice on flat roofs can pose serious safety issues for property managers, building occupants, and pedestrians. The removal of such accumulation is not only a necessity but it must also be done with special care to protect the integrity of the roof and the personal safety of all parties impacted by this work, on either a direct or indirect basis. For these reasons, property managers/owners may wish to contract the snow removal services of flat roofing maintenance experts like Avenue Road Roofing.

Flat Roofing Requires Special Attention When Removing Snow And Ice

Snow removal from flat roofs needs a somewhat more delicate approach than clearing snow from standard driveways and sidewalks. By comparison, flat roofing materials are softer than asphalt or concrete and therefore much more susceptible to inadvertent and unwanted damage caused by human hands (using some means of snow removal equipment).

Therefore, removing snow from flat roofs cannot and should not be achieved by merely placing a shovel blade on the immediate surface of the roofing material and pushing or lifting the snow as it is done on the ground, so to speak. In order to protect the roofing material, any clearing efforts should leave about an inch of snow on the surface of the roof to guard it against unintentional damage.

Other factors that need to be considered when clearing accumulated snow from a flat roof include:

  • Choice of tools – aluminum scoops, plastic shovels may be better options
  • Method of removal? – chopping actions (for ice removal) are not advised
  • Use of de-icing/melting agents – may not be compatible with roof materials
  • Where to put the snow? – might not be able to just throw it over the edge
  • Caution around vents, pipes etc. that may be hidden/frozen under the snow
  • Movements of the work crew about the roof surface – safety considerations
  • Proper inspections to assess roof integrity issues and possible repair needs

It should be apparent that snow removal from flat roofing will require a more complex approach than sweeping snow away from the front entrance and spreading rock salt to aid with pedestrian/occupant footing. Professionals who regularly deal with flat roofs, like Avenue Road Roofing, understand the intricate and delicate aspects to clearing snow and ice from these surfaces, and the investment in such services would be highly worthwhile in maintaining your roof over the winter and from a long-term perspective as well.

With winter rapidly approaching, this is the time to secure snow and ice removal services for your flat roofing. Call the Toronto flat roofers at Avenue Road Roofing today at 416-785-5129 or contact us to book your pre-winter roof inspection as well as your winter maintenance plan.