Posts Tagged ‘roof failure’

Winter Can Be Your Roof’s Worst Enemy

January 20, 2011

Commercial Roofing Takes a Beating

Winter has two faces: A snowy wonderland or a serious threat to rooftops.  Blizzards, freeze-thaw cycles and frigid temperatures place extraordinary stresses on commercial roofing systems. While most are designed to withstand harsh wintry conditions, roof failures can occur when these systems are pushed beyond their limits.  Heavy snow is a major concern.  Clogged drains and leaks are others.  Snow loads of just two to four feet can be hazardous, depending on the building deck.  For a concrete deck, two or three feet of snow usually are not a problem.  But for roofs constructed of economical light gauge steel, often used in strip malls and warehouses for instance, collapse is a genuine danger.  Snow loads of a few feet could be hazardous and snow removal may be indicated.

When snow removal is necessary, using the wrong shovel on a single ply roof can be a big mistake.  Many roofs are ruined that way.  For this reason, a roofing professional should be considered a valuable partner in proper snow removal, potentially saving a building owner the cost of repair resulting from shovel damage failures.

The best safeguard against winter calamities is routine roof inspections just before and just after winter.  Minor problems with drains, flashings, copings and so forth can be repaired before winter.  Spring is the time for identifying major defects such as split membranes caused by wintry weather.  Major roof repairs or reroofing should be scheduled for the summer and fixed well before winter arrives.

A building’s drainage is also at risk during wintry weather.  Snow and ice can obstruct drains and build up during freeze-thaw cycles.  This ice can get under flashings, copings, drains and joints and wreak havoc on all types of roofing systems.  A roofing professional has the experience and knowledge to identify and correct problems before they become catastrophic.

Most buildings are designed to withstand the worst case scenarios of wintry weather, but if a design flaw becomes apparent, extraordinary measures may be required in the winter.

For example, heating tape may need to be installed around drains to alleviate ponding and ice buildup.  Because of the energy costs to melt ice and snow, heat tape is not an ideal solution but may be the only way to avert a disaster if the building is prone to this problem.  Each type of roofing system presents its own strengths and weaknesses. A roofing professional can determine when a roof is no longer reliable or can assist the owner or property manager in obtaining the routine maintenance required for the roof to survive another winter.  Building owners often replace their roofs as soon as the warranty expires even though it could provide several more years of reliable service life.  An experienced roofer can assess the condition of the roof and may recommend maintenance to keep the roof viable for an additional number of years.  They know how to cooperate with manufacturers to obtain accurate technical information about the reliability and performance of roofing products and their suitability for a particular application.