The Good Steward

From the Claims Desk: Winter Weather Roof Hazards

February 2021

Could your roof be in danger of collapse? Winter weather can have a devastating effect on roofing materials and structural components, says Sam Carucci, Vice President, Claims, for The Church Insurance Companies. And it isn’t just snow and ice.

“Water is the most destructive force we find in insurance claims,” Sam reveals. He lists the three most common water-related threats to roofs.

  1. Excessive Snow Load

One cubic foot of snow can weigh between 12 and 20 pounds, according to the National Snow & Ice Data Center. In a climate that gets multiple snowfalls without intermittent melting periods, snow weight can cause enormous stress to structures. Flashing can bend and buckle, gaps in seams and joints can widen. Any weak point gets weaker, and roofing materials can quickly deteriorate, possibly leading to a total roof collapse.

  1. Freeze and Thaw

You might feel relieved if you have a freeze-and-thaw cycle during winters where you live, but Sam says those weather conditions can cause problems, too. If accumulated snow melts quickly, water can find its way into the smallest gaps in the roof structure, even penetrating the roof membrane.

Then, when the temperature drops again, the water becomes ice. Since water expands when it freezes, the gaps it fills become wider. The cycle allows even more water to infiltrate the roof the next time the mercury climbs.

  1. Ice Dams and Pooling

Ice dams form on the edges of a roof when water runoff cannot travel along planned channels. Clogged gutters are frequently the cause.

The water collects and refreezes, which prevents future melt and runoff from draining properly. The larger an ice dam grows, the greater its potential for causing damage because the weight can stress the roof structure.

The Bottom Line

After significant snowfalls or long periods of freezing temperatures, you may need to remove snow and ice. Sam recommends using de-icing products formulated not to damage roofing materials.

He also advises being proactive about roof maintenance to prevent issues. Seek out inspectors without financial incentive to sell products and services. A home or commercial property inspector can provide information about what needs to be done.

Once the weather is warm again, take additional precautionary measures. “You might apply a coating to shield your roof from moisture penetration or install a roof covering system,” Sam says. “Taking actions to protect the integrity of your roof go a long way toward preventing small problems from turning into big ones.”