Snowy rooftops make for quaint winter pictures, but don’t let a cozy image distract you from the risks of letting snow accumulate on a commercial building. Allowing piles to build on any roof opens to property damage and safety risks that can spoil the holiday spirit.

“We all love those images of snow billowing over the top of a building, but it’s not a scene that property stakeholders should let linger for too long,” says Marco Ferazzo, a manager with Artistic Skylights.

The Artistic Skylight team has seen its share of snow-covered rooftops over the years. From experience, it knows that ignoring snow removal in a commercial maintenance strategy can lead to future headaches for property managers and owners. Some risks include:

  • Structural damage: Resulting from heavy snow loads straining (or even breaking) roofing systems that weren’t designed to bare those weights. Remember that even a foot of snow weighs up to five pounds per foot, while wet or heavy snow can be far heavier. Also keep in mind that a winter storm in Canada can deposit pounds of snow at a time and that structural stress will add up fast.
  • Interior damage: Caused when the snow breaks through the roof, damaging key commercial building systems and internal assets.
  • Occupant and visitor endangerment: Accumulating snow and ice can fall onto unsuspecting building occupants and visitors. Moreover, impacted roofing systems can lead to risks of falling debris inside.
  • Productivity and financial loss: Resulting when commercial properties must pay for roofing repairs or halt activities due to building damages.

These risks are especially present during a Canadian winter, when the freeze/thaw cycle can result in roofing leaks and cracks, posing further damage risks to the property.

“We’ve all been through months where it’s warm one day and freezing the next,”
says Ferazzo. “That back and forth between water and ice plays havoc on a building’s rooftop and adds to the many reasons you need to be removing that snow.”

Indeed, commercial snow removal is vital throughout the cold seasons. But while property maintenance teams might be tempted to do the job themselves, there are important considerations to keep in mind.

“It’s not just a matter of picking up a shovel and going up there,” adds Ferrazzo.

There are safety considerations, for one. Ice and snow on a roof pose significant slip, trip, and fall hazards, requiring roof safety training, awareness, and equipment. Moreover, anyone going to up to remove snow must be aware of where critical roof components and systems (e.g., skylights, HVAC equipment, utility elements, etc.) are located so they do not do any accidental damage. Lastly, failure to respond quickly after a winter storm or large accumulations of snow can leave crews dealing with more than they can safely manage.

For these reasons and more, it pays to consider working with commercial snow removal specialists and adopting the roof safety training and equipment necessary to handle the load.

“Staff safety must always be a priority, and there are a lot of important assets on the roof like a skylight to protect,” says Ferrazzo. “So while you need to keep on top of commercial snow removal, but you also need to ensure you’re doing it right.”

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