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Winter Effects on Your Commercial Roof

Winter Effects - roof freeze - North American Roofing

 Heavy snows, record cold temperatures, and other winter effects send most facility managers indoors to focus on maintaining a comfortable interior climate. You probably have no intention of going up on the roof while your community is locked in winter’s icy grip. Snow, ice and thermal shock, however, aren’t taking a break. Commercial buildings with flat roofs are at increased risk because of their wide spans and their low-slopes that don’t permit snow to slide off with ease. Access might be limited now, but winter is not the time to forget about your facility’s roof.

The Freeze/Thaw Cycle

winter effects - roof snow drain - North American Roofing

The last thing you want is to form a bucket brigade inside your building come spring. Today’s commercial roofing systems are better than ever at defending against Old Man Winter’s onslaughts, but snow and ice, accompanied by partial thawing and refreezing, can wreak havoc on a roof, especially if the roof is nearing the end of its lifecycle. While ice is a formidable enemy anywhere on the roof, areas of special concern include drains, downspouts, tie-ins, flashings, seams and areas where snow drifts accumulate. With repeated thaw/refreeze cycles, the risk of damage to the roof increases. When water seeps into a crack and freezes, it expands the crack, leading to leaks.

Heavy Snows


In areas that receive considerable snowfall, commercial roofs are built to withstand additional weight, but heavy snows can still present a danger. While fresh snow can add up to 20 pounds of weight per cubic foot, if the snow partially thaws and refreezes, the weight can increase to as much as 60 pounds per cubic foot. Because moisture levels vary significantly, you can’t judge snow weight by the depth of the snow. Signs that heavy snows have exceeded your roof’s safe snow load include loud popping noises, bends in metal supports, cracked wooden supports, sagging purlins or other notable deformities.

Thermal Shock

Some types of roofing systems are prone to damage from repeated temperature extremes. Thermal shock occurs when daytime highs warm the roof’s surface, followed by nighttime temperatures that dip below freezing. Older roof membranes, like old rubber bands, eventually lose their tensile strength and their ability to expand and contract without deterioration.

Best Practice

In addition to snow removal, you’ll get the longest life out of your roof by having regular inspections, making repairs and scheduling routine maintenance. No roof is going to last forever, but, with professional care, many roofs can outlast their original manufacturer warranties. Our experts can assess your roof’s cold-weather risk and help you formulate a plan that will extend the life of your roof.

Call us today at 800-551-5602 to discuss your snow removal needs and to schedule your roof’s spring inspection.

The Importance of Rooftop Snow Removal

Importance of Rooftop Snow Removal - North American Roofing

While a fresh covering of snow gives everything pristine white appeal, it’s not your roof’s best friend. As the snow piles up, it creates a heavy burden on the roof. Partial thaws, refreezes, and subsequent snows only add to the problem. The best course of action is to have a rooftop snow removal plan in the works before Old Man Winter blows into town.

Snow Load Issues for Roofs

One foot of light snow is approximately the same weight as one inch of water, which weighs 5 pounds per square foot. Heavy, wet or packed snow can weigh substantially more, adding 10-20 pounds per cubic foot of weight to the roof’s structure. Snow that thaws and refreezes can weigh as much as 40-60 pounds per cubic foot. In northern climates where it’s not uncommon to receive three or more feet of snow at a time, the added weight quickly becomes a burden on the roof.

Signs of Snow Overload

Damage to the roof from heavy snow events is progressive. Snow accumulation that is not promptly removed can weaken the roof’s structure and surface, making it easier for subsequent snows to wreak havoc. In addition to making a visual assessment, other indicators that your roof has suffered from snow damage include:

  • Noticeable roof deformities
  • New areas of ponding water after snow melt
  • Sagging or bent metal purlins
  • Leaking, which could indicate membrane damage
  • Audible “popping” noises emanating from the building’s structure

Your facility’s original blueprints might include a notation of safe snow loads, but it can be difficult to determine snow load limits on older facilities and on weakened roof structures.

Factors that Increase Snow Load Problems

Low-slope roofs are more susceptible to damage than steeper roofs because heavy snows cannot easily slide off. Wind-blown drifting can create huge snowdrifts, resulting in substantial loads on certain parts of the roof. Multi-level roofs and rooftop lean-tos encourage drifting — putting low areas of a facility at greater risk for damage. Even when snow or ice accumulation doesn’t exceed your roof’s weight capacity, drifting and wind can cause unanticipated roof failures and leaks. Roofs can (and do) cave in with no warning signs.

Rooftop Snow Removal

The best practice is to have snow accumulation removed promptly and professionally. Sending a general maintenance crew to the roof can be risky, due to potentially icy and slippery surfaces. Most maintenance crews do not have the special ladders, safety equipment and snow removal tools necessary to complete the job safely, and can oftentimes do more harm to your roof than good. The snow and ice must be removed by hand, in a checkerboard pattern, to avoid instability in the roof. Rooftop snow removal equipment designed to use on the ground, such as snow blowers, power brooms, and ordinary snow shovels, can cause damage to your roof, along with skylights and buried gas lines, and you should never use a pick or axe to chop ice. At North American Roofing, we understand the vital importance of removing heavy snows before they can damage your roof’s structural integrity. Our crews are experienced in removing snow in accordance with OSHA safety regulations. When you enroll your facility in our snow removal program, you can count on us to be there to remove damaging snow before it can affect your roof.

Call us today at 800-551-5602 for more information about how you can protect your facility and gain peace-of-mind with our snow removal program.


Pre-Winter Roof Inspections Can Reduce Utility Costs

roof inspections - North American Roofing

There’s still time to reduce your seasonal utility costs before Old Man Winter sets in for good. Many parts of the country won’t succumb to the Big Chill until January or even February, but waiting that long to have your roof inspected is a gamble. Energy costs are at an all-time high, and if your facility’s roof isn’t up-to-par, you could be paying much more to heat your building than you should be.

Why Have an Inspection Now?

During this busy time of the year, it’s easy to become preoccupied with the holidays and end-of-year business activities. Unfortunately, if you don’t address relatively minor building envelope issues now, winter’s relentless freeze/thaw cycles could create bigger, more costly problems. During a standard inspection, a skilled roofing professional will examine the roof system and all roof components, including parapets, skylights, rooftop units, copings and seams. This is the time to make simple repairs and perform necessary maintenance to get your facility through the winter safely.

Keeping Moisture at Bay

Roofs and water don’t mix. When your roofing system is working the way it should, water drains harmlessly away but a loose seams, deteriorated sealant, a puncture or corroded flashing can allow water to seep in. Moisture compromises a roof’s insulation layer, rendering it ineffective, which contributes to skyrocketing utility costs. Over the winter, moisture that enters a small leak can freeze and expand, increasing the size of the leak, leading to moisture entrapment and damaging the roof structure beneath. Left unchecked, this contributes to mold growth, premature deterioration of the roof system and potential damage to the facility’s contents.

Never Miss Seasonal Roof Inspections

The best practice is to have your facility’s roof inspections twice per year, once before winter’s blast, and again before the heat of summer. Even the strongest roofs can fall prey to airborne debris, drainage issues, damage from foot traffic or incorrect installation or shifting of rooftop units. Unless you’re trained to spot potential roof problems, you’ll miss them, setting yourself up for damage that could have been prevented. For facility managers committed to protecting their buildings, North American Roofing suggest RoofGuard, a premium roof inspection program that offers seasonal inspections and provides detailed reports that allow you to track the health of your roof.

It’s Not Too Late

Before ringing in the New Year, give North American Roofing a call. We’ll inspect your facility’s weather-resistant envelope and help you take the correct steps to protect it during this cold season and for years to come. Your roof’s thermal efficiency is directly related to the amount of climate-control energy you consume. By making the call today, you’ll not only save on winter energy costs, you’ll reduce the demand on your heating units as well.

Protect your roof – call North American Roofing today at 800-551-5602. You’ll be glad you did.

Escape Winter Roof Woes with Fall Maintenance Measures

Fall Maintenance - North American Roofing

Fall is the perfect time to prepare your facility roof for the coming cold. In many regions of the U.S., winter brings frigid temperatures, icy winds and heavy snow loads, all of which stress building roof systems. During repeated cycles of snow and ice melt, water can seep into tiny roof cracks and refreeze, expanding the cracks and increasing the risk of leaks and roof damage. The best way to protect against winter’s wrath is to make sure your roof is in good shape before the snow flies.

Fall Roof Inspections

During a fall maintenance inspection, a roofing expert will assess the overall condition of the roof and look for specific issues. Depending on the type of roof system, the inspector will be looking for shifted or missing ballast, debris buildup, coating deterioration, loss of membrane integrity, blistering, shrinkage, voids, punctures and seam gaps. Staining on the roof could indicate ponding water, which increases the risk of leaks and roof failure. The inspector should pay close attention to copings and perimeter edges. Careful inspection of sealant and flashings around all rooftop HVAC units and other penetrations such as skylights is essential. A good inspector will also note surrounding elements, such as large tree limbs that could break and damage the roof during blustery winter winds.

Pre-Winter Maintenance

Winterizing includes cleaning and removing debris from the roof and making sure drains, scuppers, gutters and downspouts are clear. In addition to sealing any punctures, blisters, cracks and seam gaps found during the inspection, a professional roofing maintenance team will secure or replace loose flashings around parapets, penetrations and roof-wall tie-ins. Additional repairs might be required depending on roof design and the potential for severe winter storms, ice buildup and heavy snow loads.

Roof Coatings

Fall is the perfect time to apply protective roof coating. The rubber-like properties of elastomeric roof coatings seal and protect aging roofs. One of the best features of elastomeric roof coatings is the ability to apply them over many different types of roofs, including modified bitumen, metal, single-ply membrane and built-up roofing (BUR) systems. The application of high-quality elastomeric roof coating this fall will protect your facility through the winter and could extend the life of your roof by 10 years, or more.

Put Your Roof in Good Hands

North American Roofing offers a full range of professional roofing services, including fall inspections and pre-winter maintenance. Most facility managers are adept at recognizing standard roof problems, but it takes a knowledgeable roofing expert to identify potential problems before they’re visible to the naked eye. We’re not weathermen, we can’t predict whether the upcoming winter will be mild or harsh, but we can prepare your roof for anything Mother Nature sends your way.

Call us today at (800) 551-5602 to schedule a comprehensive fall maintenance inspection and find out how to protect your roof from winter’s wrath.

Weather-Related Low-Slope Roof Damage: Prevention, Maintenance and Repair

Hailstorms top the list of potentially destructive weather events that can result in low-slope roof damage. Once compromised, heavy snow loads, rain and freezing temperatures can further impair the roof’s surface. Professional assessment and prompt attention is the key to protecting the roof. In the event of irreparable damage, it’s imperative to replace the roof before the underlying structure suffers.

Assessing Hail Damage

Powerful hailstorms can compromise the integrity of the roof without leaving visible punctures in the surface of the roofing. Hairline cracks and fractures may go unnoticed by the untrained eye of an insurance adjuster, but they will substantially shorten the life of the roof. Impact damage from hail that results in membrane depressions also increases the likelihood of future cracks. This type of damage is unlikely to result in a settlement from the insurance company that may view the damage as “cosmetic.”
Only a trained roofing inspector can reliably assess the level of damage to the roof and determine what type of maintenance or repairs are in order. The sooner a qualified inspector examines the roof, the sooner you can take the necessary steps to ensure roof soundness.

Destructive Freeze and Thaw Cycles

A high quality roof in good condition withstands normal temperature fluctuations, but extreme heat and cold, especially in combination with moisture, can wreak havoc on a roof that’s been previously compromised by hail damage. During periods of freezing rain or snow, moisture can seep into minuscule surface cracks and when the moisture freezes, it expands, enlarging the crack. Subsequent thawing and freezing cycles will continue the destructive process unless repairs are made to the roof’s surface to seal the cracks.

Ongoing Roof Observation

Periodic roof inspections are important for monitoring the condition of the roof; even if there have been no recent storms. The identification of potential issues before they can develop into serious problems saves money and prolongs roof life.

Repair or Replace?

Addressing storm damage immediately will save money over the long haul. The extent of the damage will determine the whether the roof is repairable or whether a new roof is necessary. The application of quality roof coatings can extend the life of the roof by sealing cracks and reflecting heat away from the surface. Coating solutions provide a tough but flexible seal that protects against weathering and moisture, until you’re ready to replace the roof.
For greater protection, the installation of single-ply, thermoplastic roof membranes, such as polyvinyl chloride (PVC), thermoplastic polyolefin (TPO) or Ethylene Propylene Diene Monomer (EPDM) offer a durable, puncture-resistant and long-lasting solution that can often be retrofitted over existing roof structures, including metal roofs.

The best practice is to install the highest quality roof you can afford and to protect it judiciously through regularly scheduled inspections and repairs.

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