Every season poses different risks to your roof. Fluctuating temperatures, changing weather and the progression of nature can all put a strain on the structure of a building. Understanding these seasonal roofing risks allows you to plan in advance for important preventative measures, such as minor repairs and roof surveys. In this blog, we’ll go over the main roofing risks commercial buildings face during Winter and how you can help to avoid these.
With any building, the roof is one of the most important and integral parts. It protects all stock, assets and employees as they work. It helps to support the structure of a building. It plays a key role in insulation and the management of moisture. Your roof needs to be cared for and maintained throughout the year to ensure it performs at an optimal level.
Significant damage to a roof can have a detrimental impact on your business and employee safety. Failing to recognise minor repairs early on can lead to situations such as extreme leaks and even a full roof cave in. In this instance, your stock, company assets and employees are all at risk. Equally, the financial implication of an event like this can be staggering. By understanding the different risks posts during each season, you’ll have the tools needed to prevent any of this from happening.
The wind we experience during Winter is generally faster than that on warmer days. This is due to several factors including how built-up an area is and the Earth’s uneven core temperature. Regardless of the reason, high winds can have a significant impact on the structure of a roof. And, it doesn’t have to be hurricane, gale-force winds. Continually impact over time can also cause damage.
Many commercial buildings are built with flat roofs. These expand the space inside, are cost-efficient and made from hard-wearing materials. They can also resist wind impact much better than pitched alternatives. However, it’s important to note that flat roofs are very rarely completely flat. There needs to be some gradient built into their design to help with drainage. This is where the issue of wind impact comes into play.
During heavy storms, wind can blow debris across roofs. It also impacts with the surface, putting strain on the structure. Depending on what makes up the debris, damage can occur as these items pass along the roof’s surface. This can tear down the membrane structure or impact with features such as the flashing or guttering.
If you have an older roof or one that has been poorly installed, the impact of high winds will be more significant. Loose flashings, curb flashings or guttering can become further loosened and present a falling hazard to people moving around a building. In serious situations, older roofs can collapse completely – which is both a serious safety risk and an expensive job for any business.
Damaged flashings compromise the seam around a roof. In wet and windy conditions, this increases the chance of water getting beneath your chosen roofing material. The implications of excessive moisture are significant for both the entire building and the roof itself.
While we only really get snow in the UK for an average of 15 days a year, this period can be particularly damaging to roofs. Accumulated snow adds weight to the roof of your property. Most roofs are designed to accommodate a percentage of additional weight – taking into account rainfall, organic debris and even the odd pigeon. But when their maximum weight capacity is exceeded, there becomes the risk of damage.
Most roofs are designed to allow for up to 20lbs of snow per square foot. In areas where snowfall is more common, additional supports can be put into buildings to increase this. However, additional weight above a roof’s capacity can compress the building’s insulation. It has the potential to damage the roof deck and even lead to sagging over time. The most common sign of a roof that has a load heavier than it can handle is to hear popping noises. You may also notice that metal or wooden supports have become warped or the ceiling appears distorted from the inside.
It’s not uncommon to have relatively warm days during Winter but to see the temperature plummet significantly in the night time. This continuous fluctuation in temperature is also detrimental to the condition of your commercial roof. As the temperature rises, the roof and it’s materials expand. As the temperature drops, these materials contract. It is this that causes structural damage, such as cracks and breaks to form. Thermal shock occurs when temperature changes happen so quickly, it puts stress on the roofing system and materials. This causes fissures which allow water in and cracks in the membrane.
It’s worth noting that ageing roofs will be the worst hit by these changes. Keep an eye out for cracks in the joints, torn seams, flashings that become separated from the building and general signs of deterioration.
While beautiful in many ways, ice can be deadly for commercial roofs – particularly flat roof systems. Where water pools and temperatures drop, ice forms on these flat areas. Without the right drainage or changing weather conditions, it has nowhere to go. Ice dams are ridges of ice that build-up at the edge of a roof and prevent the melting snow from draining off. It can cause significant issues such as buckled floors, collapsed ceilings and weakened walls as well as moisture-related damage such as mould. This added weight puts pressure on gutters and flashings, causing them to warp and bend out of shape. And this causes them not to work at full capacity.
By understanding the different risks that present themselves during Winter, you can take action to minimise these. Working with an experienced roof contractor ensures you always have a professional team alongside you to deal with or address specific hazards as soon as they occur. If you have any questions or would like to speak to a member of our team here at Industrial Roofing Services (NE) Ltd, please feel free to get in contact today.