Protecting Your Commercial Roof from Winter Weather

commercial roof

Do you take your commercial roof for granted? After all, it’s the first line of defense against natural hazards, and it’ll protect your building from the oncoming winter. While everyone is safe and warm inside the building, the roof takes the brunt of it all.

What most people don’t realize is that all these elements take a toll on the commercial roof over time. Snow and ice accumulation can especially be devastating for the roof. It can easily cause damage to the roofing materials, weaken the structural components, and threaten the integrity of the entire roof. 

If you own a commercial building, taking the right steps towards protecting your commercial roof from winter weather will not only protect your building, but save you energy, effort, and money in the long run. In this article, we’ll look at the winter hazards your roof is likely to face and how to protect against them.

The Dangers Your Commercial Roof Will Face in Winter

Regardless of whether the building is located in an area with moderate or severe winter weather, a winter prep program is an essential part of a structurally sound commercial roofing system. A winter prep program will help you identify any potential issues that may lead to problems due to thermal movements, ice, and snow accumulation.

Ideally, problems are easier to take care of when the roof is dry as opposed to emergency commercial roof repairs that are likely to cost you more. Snow and ice can be surprisingly versatile in compromising a commercial roof, so let’s look at some of the damages they may cause.

Excessive Snow Load Causing Potential Collapse

A cubic foot of snow weighs around 12 pounds and could go as high as 20 pounds. If your building experiences heavy snow that’s as much as 6 inches, your roof will be holding anything between 30 to 50 pounds. The weight could be greater if temperatures do not rise high enough to melt some of it. 

This kind of weight will cause a tremendous strain on your commercial roof. In turn, it may damage the load-bearing components, and if the roof is old, there is a chance it may collapse. A collapse will not only lead to injuries but excessive damages as well. 

Weaken the Roofing Materials

Snow and ice will eventually melt, leading to moisture and causing deteriorating damages to your roofing materials. Your commercial roof may bend, buckle, and widen gaps in the seams and joints. The snow may also exacerbate other roofing weaknesses like membrane cracks or surface depressions. 

Freezing and Thaw Cycles

The freeze and thaw cycle is one of the major problems your roof will have to face. Once the snow melts and turns to water, it may run off through the smallest of cracks in the roof, especially around joints, curbs, flashing, and panel beams. Once the water travels through the cracks and finds its way beneath the roof membrane, it could cause major problems. 

You see, when temperatures drop again, that water will freeze and expand, widening the cracks and compromising the integrity of the whole roof. When the snow melts again, more water finds its way beneath, making it a vicious cycle that causes exponential damages. 

Ice Dams, Pooling, and Leaks

When water collects at the edge of your commercial roof, it freezes and creates an ice dam. An ice dam will prevent snow-melt from draining off the roof, which will cause water pooling and further damages to your roof. 

If the roof has any depression, the water will pool in that area, cause stress on the roof, and possibly leak through available gaps. 

Temperature Fluctuations

When temperatures drop and rise again, the shift from cold to warm contracts and expands the roof. Sometimes in the middle of winter, some days are warm, and snow on the roof melts. These temperature changes shock the roof, and the more temperatures in your area fluctuate, the higher the chances of weakening the integrity of your commercial roof. 

Protecting Your Commercial Roof against These Winter Problems

Now that we have established the kind of problems your commercial roof is about to combat, let’s look at some of the ways you can prepare and protect it.

Inspect For Vulnerabilities

Before winter hits, have competent commercial roofers carry out an inspection. They will detect any issues that may make the roof susceptible to damage. The membrane, curbs, and drainage sites are especially vulnerable and should get first priority. They will also check for any bucking and possible damages to the structural components of the roof. 

This will be the best time to carry out any commercial roof repairs or performing a roof restoration if necessary. The summer heat may have caused cracks, and it’s critical that you identify and eliminate all problems before snowfall. 

Commercial Roof Cleaning

Roof cleaning is essential before the snow starts to fall. You need to clear the gutters and drains of any debris. Clean the surface of the roof as well and remove all obsolete equipment that pose a threat in the event of high winds. If the gutters and downspouts are clogged, the water will overflow and cause damage to the roof and, potentially, the exterior of the building as well. 

The water will also add weight to the leaves and debris in the gutters, causing them to loosen from anchor points and eventually collapsing. To prevent such a catastrophe and have to deal with commercial roof repairs, later on, clear your roof of debris completely. 

Develop a Snow and Ice Removal Plan

If you are located in an area prone to continuous snowfall, it’s essential to have a snow and ice removal plan. It’s easy to remove snow before the freeze and thaw cycle, where snow melts during warm temperatures and refreezes when temperatures go down again. 

During this cycle, the snow develops layers of ice, and it gets harder to remove. If not removed, then all these layers weight down the roof and compromise its integrity. Ice forms in the roof-drains during this cycle as well, restricting proper drainage. 

Use a Coating System to Protect Your Roof

Given that snow and ice only weakens an already compromised roof and it’s a given that melting snow will undoubtedly find the flaws, protecting your roof is essential. Applying a coating system on your commercial roof may shield it from water penetration. This is especially useful in protecting against the freeze and thaw cycles. 

Hire Professional Commercial Roofers

Winter could cause havoc on your commercial roof, so you need to be ready for it. Contact professional commercial roofers to come and take care of your commercial roof repairs and help you prevent future problems. 

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