5 Leading Causes of Commercial Roof Damage in Winter

Fresh snow on a flat roof

Roofing problems will never go away on their own. Failure to promptly address issues could lead to significant damage, impact occupant health and safety, and cause costly business interruptions. Winter is a particularly difficult time of year for commercial roofs. In this post, we’ll discuss some of the common causes of commercial roof damage in the winter and what you can do about them.

1. Ice Dams

Ice dams aren’t just a problem for residential properties—they can also appear on commercial roofs. Ice dams form when melting snow runoff re-freezes before it has a chance to drain into the gutter system adequately. When ice dams form, they prevent any subsequent runoff from draining properly. They also tend to increase in size as more water freezes in the colder sections of the roof before reaching the gutters. If ice dams aren’t resolved in a timely manner, they can lead to water buildup on the roof, which can lead to roof leaks, roof damage, and a variety of other issues.

To prevent ice dams, ensure your gutters are cleared, and that water can flow freely prior to the winter season. You can also inspect the roof’s insulation for consistency; you want to ensure that there are no abnormally warm spots that could cause snow to melt.

2. Wind Damage

A little boy in a orange cap stands next to a large metal roof that has been blown off of a supermarket after a storm

High winds in the winter are all too common. And because the tree leaves aren’t there to cushion some of that wind, your roof could take the brunt of it. Unfortunately, there’s not much you can do to prevent this. However, you can opt for professional roof inspections in the fall. 

A professional inspector can detect and repair fixes before they have the chance to become significant problems. Examples of roofing issues that can become significant include loose material, worn flashing, and improper equipment installation (e.g., solar panels and HVAC units). 

You should also inspect your roof in the spring to assess any potential wind damage that occurred during the winter.

3. Water Damage

Water damage has the potential to be costly and can also lead to downtime and production/profitability losses. 

Ice dams and obstructed gutters can lead to pooling water on the roof’s surface, causing premature roof wear and increasing the potential for roof leaks.

Furthermore, condensation may form near the roofline when warm air from inside the building meets the cold air on the underside of the roof. This may eventually lead to water damage and mold growth. Mold isn’t just damaging to building materials, but it can significantly impact the quality of a property’s indoor environment. Mold exposure is linked to more intense allergic reactions, eye and skin irritation, congestion, difficulty breathing, and more.

To avoid water damage, it’s important to ensure that gutters are clear of obstructions and that roof insulation and ventilation are adequate to prevent condensation issues.

4. Large Icicles

the side of a gray commercial building has large icicles hanging off of the gutters

Icicles often form on gutters and other areas of a property, and while they may look pretty to some, the potential harm they pose largely outweighs any visual aesthetic. And, when you consider that a one-inch layer of water or ice can weigh up to five pounds per square foot, it can place a significant amount of weight on a structure or gutters, potentially leading to damage. Furthermore, if these icicles fall, they could pose a major safety threat to anyone or anything that’s directly below them. 

To prevent the formation of icicles, keep gutters clean to ensure they’re less likely to form. If icicles do form, address them promptly using a snow rake.

5. Snow Buildup

Part of a house's roof has collapsed from snow buildup. There is a hole in the roof and the existing framing is broken.

Lastly, one of the biggest causes of commercial roof damage is snow buildup. Flat commercial roofs tend to be even more problematic than sloped ones, and drifts also tend to form. Like the wind, you can’t prevent the snow from falling and building up, but you can do your best to remove it before it becomes a problem. We suggest partnering with a professional snow removal company or roofing contractor to ensure any significant snow buildup is taken care of promptly before it leads to roof damage, or worse—a collapsed roof.

Avoid Commercial Roof Damage This Winter With Help From Summit Commercial Roofing

The best way to avoid significant roof damage is to schedule routine commercial roof inspections. That’s where Summit Commercial Roofing can help. Founded over 50 years ago, we’re a family-owned and -operated roofing contractor in Southeast Michigan specializing in commercial flat roofing installations, maintenance, and repairs.

Contact us today to learn more about our services or to schedule a free inspection.

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Contact Summit Commercial Roofing Today

Summit Commercial Roofing is proud to be an industry leader in commercial flat roofing replacement, repairs, maintenance and installations. Courtesy, integrity, and transparency are a big part of everything that we do. Are you ready to see why we’re one of the best commercial roofing companies in Southeast Michigan? Call (734) 564-0371 or fill out our online form today to request a quote on our commercial roofing services.

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