Commercial Roof Snow Removal – Why It’s Important

We are the Commercial Roofing Specialists

Interested in talking to us about your commercial roofing work? Send us a quick note and we will get back to you to talk about your project or answer any questions you have.

Request a Callback

snow-covered roof with ventilation units on an apartment building

Commercial Roof Snow Removal – Why It’s Important

Key Takeaways

  • Fresh snow weighs about 4 pounds per cubic foot, but this weight increases significantly when the snow settles or becomes wet.
  • Commercial property owners are legally obligated to remove snow to prevent accidents and avoid liability.
  • Insurers may deny claims or increase premiums if regular snow removal is not documented.
  • Installing snow guards and heating cables can help manage snow loads and prevent ice dams.
  • Educating staff on monitoring snow accumulation is crucial to prevent excessive snow load and ensure rapid response to potential risks.

Snow accumulation on commercial roofs is a significant concern for property owners, as it poses various risks including structural damage, leaks, and potential roof collapse.

Understanding the dangers associated with snow accumulation and taking preventive measures is crucial for maintaining the safety and integrity of commercial buildings. 

Understanding Roof Snow Risks

How Can Snow Weight Impact the Structural Integrity of a Commercial Roof?

The weight of snow can compromise the structural integrity of a commercial roof. Excessive snow load can cause bending or cracking of support beams, weakening the roof’s overall stability. In extreme cases, this may lead to a complete roof collapse, endangering the safety of occupants and causing substantial property damage. Roofs are designed to withstand specific loads, and when snow exceeds these limits, the risk of structural failure increases. Regular inspections and maintenance are crucial to ensure that the roof can handle the additional weight during heavy snowfall periods.

How Heavy Is Snow?

Despite their fluffy and lightweight nature, snowflakes can accumulate into a substantial weight. One cubic foot of fresh snow weighs about 4 pounds. On a 2,500 square foot roof, this would amount to approximately 8,000 to 11,000 pounds of fresh, fluffy snow.

However, snow becomes significantly heavier when it settles. As it compacts, settled snow can weigh between 12 to 18 pounds per cubic foot. Therefore, a 2,500 square foot roof covered with settled snow could bear a weight ranging from 31,000 to 47,000 pounds.

Wet snow, on the other hand, is even heavier than settled snow. A cubic foot of wet and slushy snow can weigh between 25 to 51 pounds. Consequently, a 2,500 square foot roof with wet, slushy snow could hold between 62,000 to 130,000 pounds of snow. This is roughly 8 to 12 times heavier than fresh snow.

Snow Weight Calculator
Inch Calculator Logo

What are Ice Dams and How Do They Affect Buildings?

Ice dams occur when melting snow refreezes at the roof’s edge, creating a barrier that prevents proper drainage. This leads to water backing up under the roofing materials, causing leaks, water damage, and potential mold growth within the building. Ice dams can also contribute to the deterioration of roofing materials over time. As water infiltrates the roof, it can seep into insulation, ceilings, and walls, leading to extensive interior damage. The presence of ice dams indicates insufficient insulation or ventilation, highlighting the need for addressing these issues to prevent future occurrences.

Legal and Insurance Considerations

What are the legal responsibilities of commercial property owners regarding snow removal?

Commercial property owners are legally responsible for ensuring that their premises, including roofs, are safe and free from hazardous conditions such as snow accumulation.

Failure to remove snow in a timely manner can lead to liability for accidents or damages resulting from roof collapses or falling ice.

How does timely snow removal impact insurance policies and claims?

Timely snow removal is crucial for maintaining compliance with insurance policy terms. Insurers may require evidence of regular maintenance and snow removal to process claims related to snow damage. Failure to adhere to these requirements can result in denied claims and increased premiums.

Preparation and Prevention for Commercial Properties in Winter

Regular Roof Inspections and Maintenance

Conducting regular roof inspections is crucial for identifying and addressing potential vulnerabilities before winter arrives. Inspecting the roof for any signs of damage, wear, or weak spots can help property owners take proactive measures to reinforce the structure. Maintenance activities, such as repairing loose panels, sealing leaks, and clearing gutters, can prevent snow and ice from causing significant damage during the winter months.

Installation of Snow Guards and Heating Cables

To manage snow accumulation and prevent ice dams, commercial properties can install snow guards and heating cables. Snow guards help to hold snow in place on slanted roofs and allow it to melt gradually, reducing the risk of sudden avalanches.

The immense weight of snow coupled with the speed of it falling can cause a lot of damage to anything it hits on the ground.

Heating cables can be placed along the roof’s likely places of ice dams to melt snow and ice, ensuring proper drainage and preventing ice dams from forming.

heating cables on a commercial roof to stop ice dams
Heating Cables placed in drainage areas allow the snow to melt away and not cause blockages from compacted snow.

Developing a Snow Removal Plan

A well-developed snow removal plan is essential for efficient response during heavy snowfall. This plan should outline the responsibilities of maintenance staff, the schedule for snow removal, and the equipment and materials needed. Having a clear plan ensures that snow is removed promptly, minimizing the risk of roof collapses and other snow-related issues.

Ensuring Access to Necessary Equipment and Personnel

Commercial properties must ensure they have access to the necessary equipment and personnel for snow removal. This includes maintaining snow blowers, shovels, and ice melt products, as well as having a team of trained individuals ready to respond to snow events. Contracts with snow removal services can also be established in advance to guarantee timely assistance during severe weather conditions.

Preventative Measures to Minimize Snow Accumulation Risks

Reinforcing the Roof Structure

Reinforcing the roof structure can help commercial properties handle increased snow loads. This may involve adding additional supports, using stronger materials, or retrofitting the existing roof to enhance its load-bearing capacity. These measures can prevent roof collapses and other structural failures during heavy snowfall.

Improving Insulation and Ventilation

Improving insulation and ventilation in the roof can reduce the formation of ice dams. Proper insulation prevents heat from escaping through the roof, while adequate ventilation ensures that the roof stays cold enough to prevent snow from melting and refreezing. This combination helps maintain the roof’s integrity and prevents water damage from ice dams.

overhead drone view of a flat roofed building with snow load
Even if there has been a little snow fall it can drift on the roof and build up to be significant enough to cause problems in certain areas.

Applying Roof Coatings

Applying roof coatings can enhance the water resistance of commercial roofs. These coatings create a protective barrier that repels water, preventing leaks and moisture penetration. In winter, roof coatings can help mitigate the effects of snow and ice, reducing the risk of damage to the roofing materials.

Educating Staff on Snow Monitoring

Educating staff on the importance of monitoring snow accumulation and reporting potential issues promptly is a critical preventative measure. Staff should be trained to recognize signs of excessive snow load, ice dam formation, and other winter-related hazards. Prompt reporting allows for timely intervention and reduces the risk of serious damage to the property.

Methods of Snow Removal

What are the common techniques and equipment used for commercial roof snow removal?

Common techniques for commercial roof snow removal include mechanical methods, such as using shovels, snow rakes, and snow blowers, as well as employing professional snow removal services. Chemical deicers and heating cables can also be used to melt snow and ice.

workers clean roof of building from snow with shovels in securing belts
Shovels can often be enough to do the job of clearing the snow but the right safety precautions must be taken to ensure there is no risk of falling.

Pros and cons of different snow removal methods

Mechanical RemovalEffective for quickly clearing large amounts of snowRisk of damaging roofing materials if not done carefully; Potentially hazardous for team members
Chemical DeicersUseful for preventing ice formationCan be corrosive to certain roofing materials; Potentially harmful to the environment
Heating CablesProvide a long-term solution to ice dam preventionRequire upfront installation costs; Ongoing energy expenses
workers in a cherry picker removing snow on the roof of a building
Some roofs are too difficult/dangerous for staff members to clear snow from and require professionals with the right equipment to do it safely.


In conclusion, addressing the risks of snow accumulation on commercial roofs requires a multifaceted approach that includes regular inspections, timely snow removal, and the installation of preventive measures such as snow guards and heating cables.

Property owners must also ensure proper insulation and ventilation to prevent ice dams and consider reinforcing roof structures to handle increased snow loads. Educating staff on snow monitoring and having a well-developed snow removal plan are essential for preventing roof collapses and other snow-related issues.

By taking these proactive steps, commercial property owners can protect their buildings, ensure occupant safety, and comply with legal and insurance requirements during the winter months.

Frequently Asked Questions

What are the risks of not removing snow from a commercial roof?

Not removing snow can lead to roof damage, collapses due to weight, water leaks, and increased risk of ice dams.

How often should snow be removed from a commercial roof?

Snow should be removed whenever accumulation exceeds 20% of the roof’s weight capacity or if sagging and leaks occur.

What methods are used for removing snow from commercial roofs?

Common methods include manual shoveling, using snow blowers, and applying safe ice-melting chemicals.

Is it safe to remove snow from a roof without professional help?

It’s risky. Professionals have the right tools and safety equipment to avoid damage to the roof and prevent accidents.

A worker is working on a metal roof.

We Know The Value Of Your Investment

Talk to us about how we can help ensure your roof is sound and not a liability. We can give you a free quote on any of our services, just get in touch.