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3 Tips to Protecting Your Building From Snow Load Damage

July 30, 2020 | 17 Comments

Prior to winter, your building should be inspected and a roof snow load calculator should be used to determine its load limits. The building’s framing and design, thermal properties and any changes to the roof should be considered in the calculation.

Pre-Season Inspection

Next, a building inspector or structural engineer will inspect the areas of your building that may be affected by snow load. Outside the building, your roof should be inspected, and your gutters and downspouts should be cleaned, sealed and inspected. Any exhaust vents, flashing and soffits should also be checked. Inside the roof, your inspector or engineer should check your attic for moisture, especially pooling water. Your trusses should be inspected for their soundness and positioning. Any braces should be checked for damage or distress.

You should also check for damage inside the building. For example, are your ceilings or sprinklers sagging? Doors and windows may be evaluated for cracking caused by load distress. Noises, such as cracking and popping, may also suggest structural stress.

Any structural damage should be addressed prior to winter to ensure the snow load will not cause structural failure. Even small problems can turn into significant structural issues if they are left unaddressed during heavy snow seasons.

Removal Planning

In the fall, identify a location where any snow removed from the property or roof can be stored. This location should be away from the building and any equipment. Removal equipment should also be inspected before winter.

Snow removal can be dangerous, and improper removal may damage your roof, the building’s structure, obstructions, gas or electric lines or any number of other hidden hazards. Therefore, a roofing contractor should be contracted prior to the winter season. However, ensure your contractor has proper liability and workers compensation insurance and safety and removal equipment before signing the contract.

Snow Load Calculation

During the season, you will need to calculate the snow load on your roof. The snow load can be calculated using a number of online tools. These tools typically require the ground snow load, wind speed, roof structure and characteristics and duration of the snow load. However, automated systems that calculate snow loads are also available. These systems typically have warning alarms when the snow load is approaching the structure’s capacity.

After you calculate your snow load, consult your removal plan. If necessary, contact your roofing contractor. Your property insurance company should also be contacted in case the load has caused damage to your roof.

Inspecting and repairing your building and developing a snow removal plan during the fall will protect your building and its inhabitants during the snow season.

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