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Prevent Roof Collapse From Snow Load

Homes and businesses should have a snow roof system in place to protect the structure and those within it during heavy snows. A snow load plan requires preseason preparation, continuous monitoring and safe removal of any excessive snow load from the structure’s roof.

Preseason Preparation

Prior to the winter season, hire a building inspector or structural engineer to survey the building and calculate the maximum snow load. The inspection will include the gutters, downspouts, roof seals and exhausts. The soffit and ridge ventilation and roof equipment will be checked. Inside the building, the inspector will check the vertical trusses, braces, and attic moisture levels.

High snow load risk areas include roofs with low slopes or those with multiple levels. If your roof is heavily insulated, shaded or has previous structural damage, snow load may be an issue.

A vulnerability assessment and structure baseline will be produced based on this assessment. Then, a snow removal plan will be developed.

Finally, roofing contractors, utility services, neighbors and any relevant associations’ information should be collected in case of an emergency.

Monitoring

During the season, the rooftop, gas lines and ventilation should be observed. Carbon monoxide buildup should be monitored, and if it is found, roof vents and chimneys should be checked.

Snow load may be calculated using a core sample from the roof or based on ground snow load. Snow on the roof may also be monitored using an automatic monitoring system.

Warning Signs

Structural damage due to snow load may be identified through structural or beam sagging or cracks. Doors and windows may also be difficult to open. You may find leaks, drainage or puddling water inside the building. Ceiling tiles, siding, sprinkler heads and lines or interior walls may buckle or sag. Your roof may not appear straight and your trusses may look bowed.

If you smell gas or propane, clear the building, avoid any ignition actions, such as smoking or starting machinery, and call 911

Clearing the Roof

Snow should be removed before it reaches a critical stage. However, it may be unsafe for anyone to climb on the roof. In addition, increasing internal temperature to melt the snow may exacerbate the problem.

A roofing contractor will safely clear your roof. Check that your contractor has both general liability and workers’ compensation insurance. In addition, consider signing a contract that frees you from liability in case of injury or property damage.

Before the winter season begins, have your structure inspected by a licensed professional. Monitor your snow load and structure throughout the winter months so you are able to see early warning signs of structural failure. Finally, hire a professional to remove any excess load and protect your facility.

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