Winter Weather: Tips to avoid roof collapses

Winter Resource Guide
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When snow begins to pile up on a home or business, the roof could be seriously damaged due to the weight of the snow or the creation of an ice dam. Local emergency officials have offered up numerous tips on spotting if your roof is in trouble and what can be done to prevent a collapse.

Signs that a roof may collapse

Prior to a roof collapse, the Providence Emergency Management Agency says buildings generally exhibit signs that the roof is in distress and action should be taken immediately. The following are some of the symptoms that have been reported prior to roof failure:

  • Sagging roof steel – visually deformed
  • Severe roof leaks
  • Cracked or split wood members
  • Bends or ripples in metal supports
  • Cracks in walls or masonry
  • Cracks in welds of steel construction
  • Sheared off screws from steel frames
  • Sprinkler heads pushed down below ceiling tiles
  • Water in ponds where it has not formed ponds before
  • Doors that pop open
  • Doors or windows that are difficult to open
  • Bowed utility pipes or conduit attached at ceiling
  • Creaking, cracking or popping sounds

Tips to avoid a roof collapse

The Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency provided these important tips to avoid a roof collapse:

  • If roof snow can be removed with the use of a snow rake (available at most hardware stores), do so.
  • Use caution, as metal snow rakes conduct electricity if they come into contact with a power line.
  • Try to avoid working from ladders, as ladder rungs tend to ice up. Snow and ice collect on boot soles, and metal ladders.
  • Flat roofs can be shoveled clear, but only if it is determined that the roof is safe to stand upon. Exercise care when on the roof to avoid potentially dangerous falls.
  • Flat roof drainage systems should be kept clear to minimize the risk of excess roof ponding in the event of subsequent heavy rainfall or melting.
  • Large icicles can form on roof overhangs, but do not necessarily mean ice damming is occurring. Icicles overhanging doorways and walkways can be dangerous and should be carefully removed.
  • All of the mentioned actions should only be performed by able-bodied adults, as the snow is heavy, and roofs and other surfaces may be slippery. Protective headgear and eye protection is recommended.

Ice dams, which form when heat rises to the roof and melts a layer of snow, can be avoided using this simple trick.

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