Removing Snow From Your Commercial Roof (And Other Steps You Should Be Taking This Winter)

Jun 29, 2020Blog, Commercial Roofing

An area rarely looks as beautiful as when it’s blanketed in a fresh snowfall but that pristine white coating of snow can have sinister effects on the roof of your commercial building.


Unlike residential roofs, which can count on their slope and gravity to help lighten their load, snow on a flat or low-slope commercial roof isn’t going anywhere. And while snowflakes may feel fluffy and insubstantial when you catch them on your tongue, in large quantities they can quickly become far heavier than your commercial roof can handle.


So just how heavy can snow get? Well, 1 foot of light, powdery snow on your commercial roof adds about 5 pounds per square foot to its total load. That doesn’t sound like much until you do the math and realize that, for a 10,000 sq. ft. roof, that’s an additional 25 tons of snow load to support!


A foot of heavier, wetter snow can add 10-20 lbs per square foot (so up to 100 tons of snow for that same 10,000 sq. ft. roof)  and a foot of snow that’s been through one or more freeze/thaw cycles can add as much as 60 lbs per square foot. That’s 300 TONS of snow on our hypothetical roof!


So what can you do to protect your roof from this dangerous additional weight? Well, as with most things concerning your commercial roof, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. That’s why our first recommendation is to have your roof inspected by a professional in the fall. This way any vulnerabilities or problem areas can be addressed before severe weather hits.


You’ll also want to check out the areas surrounding your roof for potential hazards. Anything that could present a threat to your roof in the event of high winds or the addition of ice or snow (trees with dead or low-hanging branches for example) should be taken care of before they get the chance to cause damage.


The next step in preparing your commercial roof for a rough winter is to be sure you have a snow monitoring and removal plan in place before the season starts. And, by this, we mean a plan that involves roofing professionals. Not your building’s janitorial staff or the snow removal service you hired to do your grandmother’s driveway for her!


Unless these folks can prove they have the proper training for working specifically on commercial roofs, we’re talking about hiring actual commercial roofing professionals for your building’s snow removal needs. It’s imperative, for both the integrity of your roof and the safety of the removal crew, that your commercial roof’s snow load be addressed by people who understand the unique materials beneath all the white stuff.


Workers who are unfamiliar with the ins and outs of commercial roofing materials run the risk of damaging them by using tools like metal shovels or ice picks or even by wearing improper footwear. Removing the additional weight from your commercial roof won’t do you much good if your roof looks like a pincushion when you’re done!


Hiring non-experts can also leave you exposed financially, first by running the risk of voiding your warranty and second by increasing the likelihood of injury. Workers may be unfamiliar with the slippery nature of some commercial roofing materials and the proper safety precautions they may require, putting them at greater risk of an accident.


Most commercial roofing contractors offer winter maintenance and snow removal services. Calling a trusted roofing professional is the smartest (and safest) way to lighten your roof’s load without risking damage to it and your wallet.


Our final recommendation is to be proactive and review your roof’s insurance coverage and warranty information ahead of time. This information should be stored together, along with the contact information for your commercial roofing professional, and kept in an easily accessible location.


Winter roofing emergencies can catch you by surprise. By reviewing your coverage ahead of time and knowing where to easily find the documents and contact information you need, you’ll be less panicked if an emergency does arise. It also gives you the opportunity to catch any gaps in coverage before it’s too late to fix them!


Winter can be a tough time for a commercial roof but these simple preparations are your best bet for avoiding negative outcomes from harsh weather.  If you don’t already have plans in place like the ones mentioned here, there’s no better time to start than today!

9 Questions To Ask Potential Roofing Contractors 

Hiring a contractor can be overwhelming. There are hundreds of roofing contractors in  Eastern PA alone. How are you supposed to choose one? 

We can’t decide for you, but the following 9 questions will help you pick a competent contractor and avoid ending up with a bad one. 

  • Are you licensed and insured? 

It’s essential to ask about insurance for several reasons. For one thing, when a contractor has all their papers in order, it shows they care enough to follow proper procedures. 

And secondly, having proper paperwork protects both you and your roofer should anything go awry. 

The requirements to become a licensed roofer differ from state to state. In PA, contractors must meet the Home Improvement Consumer Protection Act requirements and register at the Pennsylvania Attorney General’s Office. 

Regarding insurance, PA law requires roofing companies to provide their employees with worker’s compensation insurance. Worker’s compensation protects you, as the homeowner, from being financially responsible for any injuries that might occur on your property. 

Your contractor should also have general liability insurance. This protects you from being responsible for any damage or injury to non-employees that might occur on your property, such as a bystander being injured on property damage.  

Roofing contractor insurance
  • Are you local? 

Some roofing companies like to move from town to town following storm damage. These companies may not be familiar with local laws and regulations, and if there is a problem with your roof after installation, they wouldn’t be available to help you. 

We aren’t saying this is a bad or dishonest business model. Just keep in mind that these companies won’t be around long-term.  

Hiring a local company is normally better, so ensure your contractor has a local address and phone number. Then if complications arise, they’ll be around to assess the situation. 

  • How long have you been in business? 

The longer a contractor has been in business, the better they understand their trade. And while it’s not wrong to hire a new company, it’s more risky. A roofing company that has “been around the block” understands all the ins and outs of a roofing system and will likely do a better job. 

Plus, the longer a business has been around, the more likely they are to be in business for years to come, and that means they’ll be around if you need them in the future. 

  • Do you offer a warranty on your products? 

Roofers may offer warranties for 1, 5, 10, or 25 years or even for life. Normally the roofing company’s warranty covers the work, and the materials manufacturer offers another warranty for the materials, so there are two separate warranties. 

Roof warranties typically last a year, and an extended warranty may add to the overall cost of your project. 

understanding roofing warranties
  • Do you use subcontractors? 

Some companies use subcontractors to help them get the work done. You should know if your contractor uses subcontractors for several reasons. 

  • One, you don’t want to be completely surprised and confused when trucks with an unknown company name on them show up at your place and strangers start working on your roof.
  • Two, you should ensure that all subcontractors have adequate licensing and insurance. 
  • And three, sometimes disreputable contractors neglect to pay their subcontractors, and in such a case, you could be held financially responsible. You may want to consider getting a lien waiver for the project to protect yourself from this. 
  • Do I need a full roof replacement or just repairs? 

You don’t want to fork out the money to replace your entire roof if you could fix your issues with some simple repairs. Alternatively, you don’t want to put a bandaid on a broken leg by replacing a few shingles when the problems go deeper. 

Knowing the extent of your roofing damage will allow you to make the best possible decision for your home. 

know the extent of your roof damage
  • Will you remove the old roof?

When fixing a roof, there are two options: tear off the old roof and completely replace it or install new roofing materials over the old roof. 

Roofing over old materials is faster and cheaper since you save the time and labor to tear the old roof off. However, if you go for this option, you won’t see your roofing system’s actual state as clearly. If there are underlying issues you missed, you may need to replace the roof a few years down the road anyway. In that case, the money you spent on roofing overtop would be wasted. 

An expert contractor can help you make a wise decision about repairing or replacing your roof. 

  • Do you have a cleanup policy once the installation is complete? 

Installing a roof is a messy project that leaves a lot of scraps and debris. You don’t want to be left in the lurch with a huge mess in your yard. 

Ask your contractor what their cleanup policy is before you hire them–a quality contractor will have policies in place. 

Will there be a dumpster sitting in your yard? Or do they hire a trash removal service? Some trash removal methods may have implications for your property and yard, and it’s best to ask about them so you aren’t surprised. 

  • How will you protect my property and yard during construction? 

During a construction project, there may be scraps lying around, large vehicles driving through your yard, and strange people in your home. Your contractor should have policies to protect your property, so it’s left mostly the same as before.  

Some companies enforce mandatory foot traffic patterns so your flower beds and grass don’t get trampled. Some use large magnets to pick up any nails that might have fallen in your yard so your children and pets don’t get injured. 

You should make sure your contractor is conscientious enough to treat your property like their own.  

Tips For Hiring A Competent Contractor 

Those are a few questions you should ask your roofing contractor before signing anything. As a bonus, here are a few miscellaneous tips for hiring a good roofing contractor: 

  • Ask for some references or previous jobs you could look at. Talking with previous customers and asking about their experience with a contractor is one of the best ways to learn more about them. 
  • Request roofing price estimates from several contractors in the area and compare them. That gives you a good idea of a reasonable price. 
  • Know your needs. Do you need to complete the project by a specific time at all costs? Or do you have a specialized roofing system requiring unique expertise? If so, these things affect what contractor you should hire. 

There are lots of good contractors out there! These questions and tips should help you make a good decision for your home. 

tips for hiring a roofing contractor

We hope this article has been helpful for you, and we wish you luck with your roofing project. 

If you want to hire a contractor in Eastern PA, contact us at River Run Roofing! We would be happy to help with your project. 

We specialize in residential roofing, light commercial roofing, and siding.

Give us a call today to get an estimate on your project! 

We look forward to hearing from you.