Snow Drifts – OUCH!!!

Well, over the weekend we got that first big snow fall of 2019. For those of you that love to play in the snow, I am happy for you. For those of us that would rather be boating at the lake on a warm day in July, our time is coming! Reality is that during winter there is snow. Snow can be fun but it can also cause damage to your facility. As a structural engineer, I get a little nervous when I see all of the drifted snow lying on a roof! Many times serious problems are just around the corner. So I wanted to share some hopefully helpful, tips on the safest ways to remove the excess snow from your roof and protect your roof members.

  • Visually inspect your roof system to identify any unusual deflections of beams or joists. If areas are found, start removal of the snow in this area. Remove approximately one-half of the snow depth in a pattern that does not cause an unbalanced loading condition on the roof members. After half the depth of the snow is removed, remove the remaining half in the same manner.
  • The shoveling pattern should progress from each side of the building towards the center. On larger roofs, it is recommended that additional people work from the center of the building to the ends.
  • Never use metal shovels to “scrape” the roof down to the surface. Remember, the objective is to relieve the excess loading condition due to the weight of the snow, not to completely clear the roof panel of all snow and ice. Attempting to scrape the roof will result in broken fasteners, tearing, fractures or holes, which could create roof leaks.
  • Keep gutters, downspouts and roof drains open and free flowing to prevent water back-up and ice build-up on the roof. Ice damming conditions are especially likely on the north side of the building and in shaded areas. Installing heat tape in gutters and downspouts can also be used as a precaution; however, heat tape should be checked regularly and may not be 100% effective in extremely low temperatures.
  • Always be watching for extreme deflections of the roof members and listen for unusual noises. When snow and ice build-up on your roof, it is always a good idea to listen and to watch. Your building will speak to you!

Snow can be fun but it can also be the cause of structural failures and water leaks. Give us a call; we can be of help in identifying unsafe conditions at your facility.

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