Commercial Roof Damage in Winter: What You Should Know

The winter weather that comes to Chicago, greater Madison, and Milwaukee, can put serious strain on your commercial roof. Fluctuating temperatures will cause your roofing material to expand and contract, which can cause commercial roof damage in the form of cracks and buckles. Ice and snow build-up will also put a great amount of weight on your roof and building – not to mention there’s a risk of ice dams forming.

To prevent commercial roof damage, you should refer to a roof inspection checklist regularly and contact a NIR commercial roofer near you online or with our app for regular maintenance visits. Read below to see the different types of damage that can occur to your Joliet or Schaumberg business roof during the winter months, including flat roof damage in winter, metal roof damage, and more. 

Flat Roof Damage in Winter 

  • Flat roofs are the most common type of commercial roof in Chicagoland. However, they also struggle with adequate drainage. When sleet, snow, and ice build-up on your commercial flat roof, the added weight can compress the insulation, causing issues for building supports and sometimes leading to a partial or full roof collapse
  • As the snow begins to melt, water can cause spots, leak into any cracks that have formed in your roofing materials, and potentially cause flat roof damage in winter to the interior of your building. To ensure your flat roof drains properly, make sure all drainage systems (drains, downspouts, etc) are clear of snow, ice, debris, and other objects. 

Low Roof Damage in Winter 

  • Low-sloped roofs face many of the same dangers as flat roofs, but their slightly-sloped design makes draining excess water and snow easier on the infrastructure. Like flat-roofs, it’s important to make sure that the drainage systems are clear of ice, snow, debris, and objects. 
  • Low-sloped roofs can also suffer from excess snow accumulation. An improperly maintained roof will be at risk of partial or full roof collapse.

Pitched Roof Damage in Winter 

  • Pitched roofs are uncommon on commercial buildings, but they are not unheard of. The design of a pitched roof makes it ideal for rain and snow run-off, meaning that accumulating water, leaks, and mold are less likely to occur. 
  • Pitched roofs also have an advantage over snow accumulation. However, ice dams become a threat when the ice dislodges and falls off the roof. This can be a danger to workers, customers, other pedestrians, and property if they’re not taken care of. 

Tar Roof Damage in Winter 

  • Tar roofs are susceptible to cracking and buckling from fluctuating winter temperatures – especially near the end of their lifespan. Chicago-area business owners can help protect their tar roofs by getting a comprehensive NIR roof care plan.

Metal Roof Damage in Winter

  • Metal roofs are excellent for preventing ice dams and accumulating snow, but they can sometimes leak due to varying temperatures. Improperly sealed seams can also allow snow and ice to accumulate, causing them to open up and create leaks inside your building. 

PVC Roof Damage in Winter 

  • PVC roofs are an excellent choice for many businesses, but extremely cold temperatures can cause them to “shatter” when they’re not properly cared for or if they’re at the end of their lifetime. Protect your PVC roof by getting regular maintenance and inspections by finding a NIR commercial roofer near you.

How Does Cold Affect Your Roof? 

Cold is tough on your roof when it is combined with warmth. During the course of a Chicago winter, it is not uncommon for the daytime high temperatures to reach 50 degrees (or more) and then, at night, for the temperature to drop below freezing. This fluctuation in temperature is called thermal shock. When the temperature gets warmer, the building’s structure, including the roof, begins to expand. Then, when the temperature gets colder, the building’s structure begins to contract. The more extreme the temperature fluctuation is, the greater this expansion and contraction.

Look at your roof like a rubber band. Take a rubber band and hold it out in front of you – one side in your left hand and one side in your right hand. Now begin to stretch that rubber band close to what you think the breaking point is, and then let it go slack again. Keep doing that several times, and you’ll notice something important. What you may first notice is that the rubber band begins to lose its tensile strength, taking less effort to pull it to its breaking point. The second thing you might notice is that it’s much easier to break the rubber band after it’s been stretched. Now, a rubber band is designed to address these types of extremes, but will still fail if stretched enough times. A roof is not necessarily designed for such extremes.

How Does Ice Affect Your Roof? 

Ice can also wreak havoc on your roof. When it snows on your roof, oftentimes, the first layer of snow melts as it comes into contact with the relative warmth of the building. That “liquid snow” gets into your roof’s cracks and crevices. Then, as the snow continues to fall, the wet, watery snow underneath begins to freeze. When it freezes, that moisture within those cracks and crevices expands. This expansion makes any defects in the roof worse.

Now what happens when you get a warm day, and the rooftop snow begins to melt? The process is started over; because, now, the melting snow also seeks out and finds additional cracks and crevices. Then, when the temperatures drop again during the night, that water freezes and expands again. Similar to thermal shock, this constant freezing and thawing of snow exacerbates any defects in the roof. The older and more damaged your roof, the more profound the freeze-thaw-freeze effect will have. 

How Can NIR Roof Care, Inc. Help You Prevent Roof Damage in Winter?

One thing you can do to prevent these issues is to make sure that there is adequate drainage on your roof, so that any rain or snow melt is able to get off of your roof before it freezes (or refreezes, as the case may be). It’s also important to safely remove snow from your commercial roof on a regular basis.

Ultimately, every roof is different and exists in a unique local environment. All of this makes it impossible to use the same fix for every roof. Therefore, the best way to know your roof’s specific needs is to have your roof inspected and maintained on a regular basis. Speak with your Certified Roof Care Specialist today to make certain you are ready for this winter. If you should have any additional buildings not currently under our care, let one of our Customer Care Specialists know so that we can assess with a FREE 25-Point Inspection that will provide you with specific and significant insight into the needs of your particular roof. Call us today at (847) 669-3444.

Categories: NIR Blog


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