The Risk Above

Look up, there’s a business risk right over your head-your roof in winter weather.

A bitter cold snap can affect any part of the country, and when one hits,-similar to the one we’ve recently experienced-it’s no time to hibernate. Following the next big snow or ice storm, keep an eye out for ice dams.  When these ridges of ice form at the edge of a roof or around downspouts, melting snow has no way to drain.  Water backs up behind the ice dam, increasing the risk of leaks and adding to the load on your roof.

If ice dams do form, it’s important to remove the snow to minimize damage (of course, if you don’t have properly trained maintenance workers or the roof cannot be reached with a roof rake from the ground, call a roofing contractor).

To keep ice dams from forming in the first place, consider these preventative steps:

  • Increase ceiling insulation, particularly around recessed light fixtures (if they are rated for insulation coverage) and around vents, plumbing stacks or other openings.
  • Improve roof ventilation with soffit, ridge or gable end vents.
  • Consult a contractor to see if self-regulating heater cables would be appropriate.
  • Establish a schedule for periodic inspection of all drainage systems.
  • Keep all drains, gutters and downspouts free of debris.
  • Next roof installation, add “ice guard,” a protective layer under the shingles. Although it won’t prevent ice dams, it can prevent water from seeping through the roof.

While commercial buildings with flat roofs are particularly vulnerable to water leaks from ice dams, every business needs to monitor this risk.  Even if you are merely renting commercial space and maintenance falls to someone else, your vigilance can protect the business assets you have inside.

So next winter storm, keep an eye out for ice underfoot to prevent slips and falls, but don’t forget to look overhead as well!