Roofs are built to protect buildings from the very thing that wears them down: weather events. More specifically, weather events like storms and temperature fluctuations leave them particularly vulnerable. Property Managers need to make roof maintenance a priority and have them checked immediately after storms to prevent roof leaks and related damage.
In this post, we’ll provide the five areas of the roof to check for damage caused by storms and why it’s so important to check for the signs.
To understand the importance of timing when it comes to storm damage to a roof, let’s look at a few examples. There are so many parts of the roofing system that can be affected by high winds and freezing temperatures: Icicles and ice damming, eavestroughs, hatches, vents and roof drains are the problems we see most often. The damage from each gets worse as time goes on and leads to expensive surprises that Condo Corporations don’t appreciate.
Snow that melts and refreezes along the edge of a roof’s surface is called ice damming. It outside the building you’ll see icicles hanging from the roof. This is dangerous and causes a lot of damage. Get these looked at immediately to protect your clients from liability from falling icicles. Knocking down the icicles will only prevent safety hazards but will not solve the problem. The icicles will return.
Ice damming causes damage to eavestroughs shingles, soffits, and fascia. This gets worse over time as ice melts, refreezes, expands, etc. It finds its way to walls and damages property. It leads to condensation and mold growth which irritates residents and causes health problems.
It’s also an indication of a much larger issue of improper ventilation. Heat from the building, or townhouse, is rising and escaping. The temperature at the peak of the roof is above freezing and causes accumulated snow to melt.Melted snow travels down the sloped roof. Overhangs catch and hold water. The temperature at overhangs is below freezing because it is not heated by interior. Subzero temperatures cause water to refreeze, creating a dam along the roof’s edge.
Icicles are dangerous and a huge warning sign. Never ignore them.
There’s more to watch for with eavestroughs. Their function is to provide roof drainage. When water becomes ice it expands and warps eavestroughs. This usually happens because there was some kind of debris or blockage their already.
Pressure builds as the back-up thaws and refreezes and creates a giant ice block inside the eavestrough.
Ultimately when water can no longer drain from the roof properly, it damages the siding and leaks into the structure.
Damaged eavestroughs only get worse and cause more and more damage as time goes on. Problems are easy to spot and should never be left to deal with later.
It’s tricky to tell just how heavy snow is on a roof. Fresh snow that’s light and fluffy weighs less than snow that has been lingering and has become more compact as temperatures fluctuate. If there’s more snow than usual it is best to just get it removed. Be sure to hire someone qualified, insured and trained to work at heights since it is a big safety issue.
Take note of door jams, cracks showing on ceilings and walls, any sagging of the ceiling or structures, lowering sprinklers heads and a new creaking sound. If snow has been building on the roof and any of these happen get the roof checked immediately. If window and door frames are warping and structures are sagging: Evacuate the building.
Two snow storms in a row with a brief period of melting in between is a dangerous scenario. When snow falls on top of existing snow that has thawed and refrozen weight of snow and pressure on the roof is a big concern. Roofs cave in. It’s better to be safe than sorry in this case.
Heavy snow and ice build-up damage roof penetrations such as roof vents, skylights and hatches. This happens when snow melts and re-freezes, expanding and putting pressure on the metal perimeter. It also leads to rust and roof leaks. It’s best to get them checked soon after a storm rather than wait for Spring because a slow leak could go undetected, allowing mold to grow. The photo above shows a roof hatch that was found broken in the Spring. It had to be replaced.
On flat roofs we see clogged drains after any weather event. As snow melts, water brings debris with it as it flows to the drain, and it builds. Having drain guards installed is a great way to prevent this debris from damaging drainpipes. Still though, the build-up can eventually cover the whole drain guard and cause water to pond. This isn’t an emergency if the roof is in good shape with penetrations regularly sealed. It does need to be cleared though because that debris, will build up and grow weeds.
Knowing what to look for after a snowstorm will save you from the hassle of ongoing roof damage in Spring. It’s the proactive way to keep roofs in the best shape possible so they last.
Be sure to use a professional roofing contractor to avoid liabilities. Ice on the roof is dangerous if you’re not trained.