Previously we discussed the damage that winter can do to your roof. When you look out the window and see gently falling snow, the last thing on your mind is probably your commercial roof. Snow is magical and who doesn’t wish for a white Christmas. It lends the landscape to a wonderland of soft edges, swirling wisps of powder and the sunlight glinting off of it surface like a thousand diamonds. Ah yes, winter is the most gentile time of year where the world seems a bit more enchanted. Of course if that is winter to you, you are probably reading this from a beach in Key West and not New Jersey. Up in these parts, winter looks more like a death metal music video. Gently falling snow may occur every so often, but the majority of the time snow falls in wind driven shafts of blinding particles, like a death ray from an alien spacecraft. It coats the ground with a sickly gray finish and is anything but beautiful. OK, so maybe it is not that bad, but snow can truly wreck your roof if it is allowed to infiltrate the protective barriers that are so critical in this climate.
The previous blog discussed ice dams and the damage they can do to both low slope and pitched roofs. To recap, an ice dam is formed when the melting snow has nowhere to go and freezes, preventing additional water from escaping the roof. Many times, on a low sloped roof this condition is caused by debris and inconsistencies in the surface of the roof. A low sloped roof is exactly what it sounds like, close to flat but not quite. A flat or low sloped roof will always have a slight incline to allow water to exit the roof. The worst thing for a roof is standing water, and that is because of a condition known as interply moisture intrusion. A pitched roof is vulnerable when ice dams are present and they allow the moisture to get underneath the shingles and through to the paper underneath. Once the paper becomes saturated the water will work its way into the wood of the roof itself. The main function of shingles on a pitched roof is to allow the water to runoff efficiently when water gets under them a leak often appears inside the structure.
It may not seem like it, but a flat roof is much more complex than a pitched roof. A flat roof must shed water and melting snow in a way that does not compromise the integrity of the roof. To accomplish this a flat roof is generally constructed of various layers of felt, adhesive and a watertight membrane. This membrane is responsible for keeping standing water off of the roof itself. Inevitably, due to the design, your commercial roof will have standing water on it at some point. If the membrane is properly sealed and protected, the standing water will pose no threat to the roof itself. If even a small hole is present in the membrane water will get in there and probably continue to grow. This will form a blister in the membrane with a pocket of water inside. Well, with the cold of winter, these blisters will freeze and pop, creating an avenue for additional water to enter under the membrane. A “snowball effect” is what we like to call it.
As bad as water intrusion is for your commercial roof, snow loading can be catastrophic. Ordinarily a commercial flat roof is engineered to handle a certain amount of weight without exhibiting any problems. When a roof is compromised, the engineered snow load capacity can be exceeded. It takes a large amount of heavy wet snow to cause snow load damage. But as we have seen, a low slope roof can be compromised in a variety of ways. If ice dams have blocked the drainage, the snow will simply sit on the roof and freeze into much more dense ice. If water has gotten in under the membrane the water could have created weak spots in the structure. This could lead to your roof actually collapsing under the weight of all that snow.
It Is Time For A Roof Inspection and Maintenance
The snow is ready to fly any day now, and we have already have had some brutally cold weather, but make no mistake, there is still time to have a comprehensive roof inspection done. The experts at S&S Roofing are still able to perform a complete inspection, regardless of the weather moving in. Of course we are not able to do an inspection if your roof is covered in snow and that is why it is critical to act now and avoid the potential issues. An advantage that S&S Roofing has over the competition is our use of infrared imaging to look for problem spots on your commercial roof. Infrared technology is extremely useful in that it offers a non-invasive way to check the integrity of the roof. We are able to identify problems that may be difficult to see with a traditional roof inspection. If a problem is found with your roof, it may be too late at this point to perform a complete roof repair but we will be able to patch up the problem areas until the weather is willing to cooperate. So the bottom line is, that now is the time to contact S&S Roofing about your winter roof issues, don’t wait for the spring rush, do it today!