The problem with waiting until the dead of winter to know if you have a problem with your roof is that industry experts recommend you don’t use snow as a leak detector for commercial buildings. With several inches to potentially feet of snow on a roof that will melt quickly as the temperatures warm up, that water weight can cause more than just an inconvenient leak. The increased weight could cause damage to the roof and building itself. The most disconcerting part of this kind of damage is that with an inspection and professional roof maintenance plan in place, it could have been preventable.
Why Experts Say Don’t Use Snow as A Leak Detector
Roofing systems installed in areas that experience annual snowfall are designed to protect a commercial building against the expected elements. The problems can come when either the unexpected happens or there is a problem unknown to the owner that exists before the snow hits.
There are a couple of main roofing factors that play a significant role in the effects of snowfall on a commercial building, including:
- Roof age – A roof with older membranes that have degraded over time are prime sources of water penetration in the event of snow. This can lead to roof leaks and noticeable damage in the building.
- Roof shape – Most commercial buildings have a flat roof shape. The risk with this kind of system when it has not been inspected or maintained is that the snow is an added weight to the roof. A system that already has weaknesses may give way due to that extra weight.
- Amount of snow – The problem with the amount of snow comes down to how much it weighs and if the integrity of the roofing system is sufficient to uphold it. Even if a roof is designed to withstand a foot or two of snow, it may not be sturdy enough for a historic and unprecedented snowfall.
In keeping with these factors, there are two primary areas of concern for roofing systems that are cases in point why building owners don’t use snow as a leak detector:
- Snow weight – Depending on how many feet of snow fall during a specific window of time, the accumulation can add weight to the roofing deck. This intense pressure may force water and moisture underneath the roof. This can lead to trapped moisture in the roof as well as increased risks of an interior leak occurring. Neither situation is good and both generally lead to expensive and time consuming fixes.
- Temperature cycle – As snow slowly begins to melt, it is common for the snow and melted water to freeze again overnight when temperatures dip. The issue here is that the cycle of frozen, thawed, and frozen again precipitation on the roof can cause roofing materials to expand and contract in a way that allows moisture into seams and cracks. This ultimately can also lead to costly interior leaks.
The good news amidst all the reasons why the professionals say don’t use snow as a leak detector is that much of this type of damage can be prevented if the building owner partners with a reputable roofing company and puts a quality inspection and maintenance plan in place.
How to Safeguard a Commercial Building’s Roof Before the First Snowfall
The best way to safeguard a commercial building against the first snowfall and subsequent snowfalls during the winter is prevention. One of the most attractive parts about investing in prevention techniques is that it is relatively inexpensive compared with paying for the damage snow can do to a deteriorating or compromised roof.
Some of the best steps toward prevention of snow issues for your commercial building’s roof include:
- Choosing a reputable professional roofing company – To have the utmost confidence in any recommended repairs, it is critical that owners work with a respected provider within the roofing industry. Look for a company that has decades of combined experience.
- Getting a roof inspection – Most roofing companies will offer at least two types of inspection packages. One of these should be free and include a general inspection with an emphasis on detecting leaks. The other is typically more comprehensive and will include the services from the base inspection package as well as a detailed report, identification of problems and defects, recommended corrective measures, a five-year management plan, and more.
- Considering added seasonal inspections – If your building is located in a geographic area that experiences wide temperature swings throughout the year, such as intense heat during the summer as well as snow and below-freezing temperatures in the winter, regular seasonal inspections can be a proactive way to have added peace of mind.
- Signing up for a maintenance plan – The goal of entering into a maintenance plan with a trusted provider is to avoid the stress and expense that can come with reactive roof management. A good roof maintenance plan should include removing debris, ensuring gutters and drains have adequate flow, examining caulking and flashings, and inspecting pipe boots for regular wear and tear. Making sure each of these areas gets a greenlight during an inspection or maintenance process is a giant step towards protecting a commercial building’s roofing system from the elements.
- Ensuring the roofing company performs year-round repairs – Whether it is monsoon season or snow season, wild weather can create problems for even the most prepared businesses. For example, heavy winds may transport a foreign object to the roof with a gust that causes damage. Should a situation like this occur, it is essential to know that your roofing company will assist with repairs year-round, understanding of course that repairs will have to wait until it is safe for the company to do so.
Don’t use snow as a leak detector because that means the damage is likely already done and could potentially get even worse as snow melts. Take the time to partner with a trustworthy roofing company to set up an inspection and maintenance plan to protect your commercial building in all seasons.