Acadia Insurance Offers Tips to Prevent Roof Collapse Due to Snow Accumulation
WESTBROOK, Maine (Feb. 15, 2017) – This week’s heavy snow accumulation on rooftops poses a risk for collapse and severe damage to buildings, presenting business owners with the challenge of removing accumulating snow from their rooftops to prevent costly losses due to collapse. Signs of a building nearing collapse may include:
- Doors and windows become difficult to open
- Roof leaks develop
- Cracks in wall, creaks occurring
- Sprinkler heads show below ceiling tiles more than usual
- Noticeable sagging in the ceiling
“If the building is near collapse, it is critical to put employee safety first before addressing any property damage,” said Matt McManus, assistant vice president, Loss Control, Acadia Insurance. “Next, business owners should identify all high-risk areas around the building where a collapse is likely due to a heavy snow load. Then it is essential to begin snow removal before it becomes critical – a process that should be completed by experienced contractors who regularly work in this area and carry appropriate insurance.”
A professional roofing company is experienced in judging when a roof needs to be shoveled and is equipped to efficiently remove the snow from the roof before it causes damage to your building. Further, if the roofing material sustains damage during shoveling, such as a tear in the membrane or hole in the metal, a roofing company is qualified to fix it immediately, thereby preventing or minimizing any leaking. If your employees unintentionally damage the roof, it is less likely that it could be fixed immediately and may void your warranty on the roofing material.
Acadia advises that high-risk areas on a rooftop may include: large open flat roofs, barrel roofs, roofs with less than 30 degrees of slope, multi-level roofs, heavily insulated roofs, roofs with previous structural damage, and those that have already experienced collapse. It also is important to pay attention to roof areas that are shaded from direct sunlight, which may cause snow to freeze into ice thus increasing the snow load.
Generally, the states in the southern portions of the Northeast may only have a roof design of 25lbs/square foot (SF) while those in the northern reaches can exceed 80lbs/SF. Concerned business owners should consult with a local structural engineer as they can assist in determining the correct design. Also, partial collapses do occur and these can be just as costly as a total collapse, so consider the value of your inventory, length of business interruption, and time involved when contemplating a repair to your structure.
Because it’s best to be prepared, building owners can prevent and mitigate damage by:
- Having someone knowledgeable inspect the roof. Be sure they consider the condition of the roof, including both the surface materials and the structures that support it. The underside of the roof should also be evaluated.
- Reinforcing buildings that need additional support. Some buildings that are open from the floor to the underside of the roof can be “sticked.” That is where a pole is run from the underside of the roof to a supporting structure in the floor.
- Installing a steel roof covering on low sloped roofs.
- Identifying low-sloped roofs and training employees to watch for stress indicators.
- Identifying areas that collect snowdrifts due to building and roof configurations and training
employees to watch areas for quick snow removal.
For additional tips to help reduce the likelihood of roof collapse to your business, view the “Snow Load Exposures” bulletin at acadiainsurance.com.