By David Bade
You know the old saying, “One ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” That’s certainly the case where a building’s roof is concerned, especially when it comes to being prepared for the harsh winter conditions. When colder temperatures arrive, membrane roof systems become harder and less flexible, and as a result, are more susceptible to damage by puncture and sharp objects.
Here are some things to keep in mind as you make sure your facility’s roof is prepared for winter:
- When your rooftop is covered with snow and ice, finding annoying roof leaks is close to impossible. That’s why it’s a good idea to take the time to check ceilings and interior walls for signs of leaks, such as stains, and seal all roof leaks possible before the weather gets bad. Late summer and early fall is the ideal time to check exterior walls for leaks, stains, cracks in bricks and any missing mortar. Sealing these will keep the cold air out and your valuable heat in.
- Cold weather has a tremendous effect on loose mortar and composite building materials. Cold temperatures can cause already loose materials to contract, leaving gaps for damaging water and winds to enter your building. This is why checking any roof deck and fascia/coping for signs of deterioration before the first snow or ice storm hits is crucial. Look for any deteriorated caulking around loose metal work, thin sections of membrane, signs of excessive movement and splits at expansion joints. You will also want to check all penetrations on your roof such as pipe boots, pitch pockets, and vent pipes, in addition to regrets areas for flashings, deteriorated caulking, and voids in the caulking, chimney flashings, and brick and mortar joints. To prevent contamination, any point of air or water infiltration should be checked and immediately restored to a properly sealed condition.
- Another cause of roof failure during winter months is drainage problems. This is why checking and clearing all gutters, downspouts, and scuppers is imperative. All drains should be cleaned out so drainage water can move freely. Strainers and clamping rings should also be checked. Water weight in a dysfunctional gutter system can loosen the attachment of the guttering to the structure, causing further damage to your building.
- A roof can leak if snow accumulates on the roof and over flashings. This is why you’ll want to check all attachments of base flashing and counter flashing. An experienced roofing contractor should be called in to survey the field of the roof membrane and redistribute all ballast across any bare spots. If there are any tears or holes in the membrane, these should be repaired immediately.
- Every winter is different with more snowfall some years than others. This is why it’s a good idea to have several thick brush brooms ready in the event you need to remove ice or snow from around roof top units. Wind-driven snow can pile up against curbs and walls and if the snow is higher than the flashing it can create a real problem when it starts to melt. If there is a major snow event, then it is best to contact a roofing professional to remove snow and ice in these critical areas.
- Finally, before the snow and ice hits make sure you inform all personnel that walking on a membrane roof or modified roof is dangerous during the winter because of fall hazards. Let personnel know that no one should walk on the rooftop after dark or before 10 a.m. as this is when icy conditions are more likely to occur.
By taking these simple preventative steps, you’ll keep personnel and occupants safer and warmer and your building’s roof will be better prepared to take on whatever the winter has in store.
David Bade is the Owner of Bade Roofing Company, Inc. Founded in 1954, Bade Roofing Company, Inc. is one of St. Louis, Missouri’s premier family-owned and operated commercial and industrial roofing specialists. Bade Roofing uses a highly-trained and skilled union workforce to install the highest quality roofing systems on major retail centers, grocery stores, hospitals, schools, warehouses and office buildings. Working directly with facility managers and building owners, and in partnership with local architects, designers and roofing consultants, Bade Roofing also provides comprehensive roof inspections and survey reports, leak finding and repair services, green roof installation, and licensed asbestos roofing removal and abatement.