Flat Roof Snow and Ice Removal | Flat Roof Drainage

General Roofing Systems Canada proves roof snow and ice removal services throughout Canada. Calgary, Red Deer, Edmonton, Fort McMurray, Lloydminster, Saskatoon, Regina, Medicine Hat, Lethbridge, Canmore, Banff, Cranbrook, Kelowna, Vancouver, Whistler, Winnipeg, Toronto and points between. British Columbia. Alberta. Saskatchewan. Manitoba. Ontario.

The interesting thing about roof snow loads and ice problems is that homeowners are much quicker to respond than our commercial and industrial customers.

The truth is that commercial and industrial buildings are much more susceptible to roof failure, damage, or leaks than residential buildings.

Commercial Flat Roof Snow and Ice Removal
Commercial Flat Roof Snow and Ice Removal

The main reason for this is that commercial roofs are typically flat and in some cases metal systems.

To exemplify the complications, allow me to refer to a commercial client in Edmonton (bookstore on Whyte Avenue) who we serviced back in 2011. It took senior management hours to figure out how to safely get the ice dams and roof snow on various decks to the ground from that roof because there are so many variables involved. Consider as well that this was a five-storey building. The client, of course, is wondering why the crew is taking so long to begin with removal. The reality is there can be hundreds of variables to consider, check, and recheck prior to starting a commercial roof snow removal project such as this.

Considerations for a commercial or industrial roof can include (as was the case here), and may not be limited to:

Power lines, OHS (Occupational Health and Safety) concerns, pedestrian traffic, vehicular traffic, rooftop equipment of various kinds on different types of roof terraces, ground spotter safety, Bobcats and dump trucks operating, roof membrane considerations, window safety, unbalanced weight loads leading to collapse or significant structural damage, tie-off points, proper commercial insurance, and WCB (Workers’ Compensation Board).

The point here is there are many considerations when removing ice and snow from a flat roof system and far too many people just jump into shoveling off a roof without thinking through what may happen if the process is handled incorrectly.

An experienced flat roof company can also assess your roof while conducting ice and snow removal for any maintenance or repairs that may be required prior to the spring melt, at which times leaks will occur.

There is a Balance between Removing Ice and Damaging Your Roof

Ice build ups at Drains
Ice build ups at Drains

Far too many people, in our experience, desire ice to be removed and do so without considering the consequences.

The equipment and tools used for removal can damage the roof. Hammers, shovels, scrapers, chainsaws, spiker shoes, and de-icers are just some of the examples of what can cause damage to the roof, regardless of how careful you may be.

Ice on a Flat Roof or Low Slope Roof System

When assessing your roof and possible remedies, the considerations are:

  • Is the ice causing a structural problem with my roof?
  • Is it a potential hazard to pedestrian traffic below?
  • Will the ice cause issues with the flat roof membrane when it melts by way of leaking?

The rule of thumb when dealing with the ice on your roof is to do as little as possible and leave what is not going to hurt someone or cause structural failure. Removing dangerous ice overhangs, icicles, and making drainage paths may be all that needs to occur. Of course, if there is a structural concern, then more aggressive action may be necessary.

Most importantly, plan ahead. One of the main problems people have with emergency roof snow or ice removal is that they way too long. It is best to engage a roofing contractor early on to assess and get them active on your life. That way, if emergency services are required, you will naturally be closer to the front-end of service considerations for the contractor as they are already aware and on top of your situation.

The Most Common Solution

In most cases, the ice on a flat roof is dealt with by affecting proper drainage and not through complete removal. Snow can be completely removed, of course, but ice is mostly handled through effective drainage considerations.

Flat Roof Ice & Snow Assessment and Removal Procedures

Industrial Roof Snow Removal
Industrial Roof Snow Removal

As a general guide in Canada, most flat roof systems are constructed to safely hold a maximum of 15 to 20 cm of ice, 35 to 40 cm of hard pack snow (about 70 to 80 cm of fresh snow). If you are getting close to these numbers, or if you have a flat roof or metal low slope roof system that has large roof spans, you will need to lighten the roof load.

The trouble with assessing by depth of snow or volume is that many factors come into play.

  • Who built the roof system?
  • What was the specification?
  • Have there been renovations below? What are the spans?
  • How old is the roof system?

We have seen roof systems collapse that had snow loads under the general guideline above.

Ultimately, if you have a structural concern (look for signs of stress inside the building), contact a structural engineer as soon as possible

Flat Roof Snow Removal

As noted above, there can be hundreds of considerations when removing snow from a flat roof. The man goal, which many folks miss, is for everyone to go home safe and sound. We strongly encourage you not to take on the task yourself.

Flat Roof Drainage and Ice Issues

Ice expansion (later pressure from ice expansions) on a flat roof can cause significant damage to roof top units, parapet walls, flat roof flashing, skylights, elevator shafts, etc. To avoid damage and roof leaks, you can work toward drainage maintenance steps that may help the issues.

The goal is to separate the ice field on your roof from what ice expansion may cause issues with on your flat roof. 

Periodically, as winter progresses, you may have to go to work again at this and separate the ice from the aforementioned sections. Once again, we recommend a professional to take this on for you.

Steps to proper flat roof drainage with ice causing issues (central flat roof drainage systems)

Large Flat Roof Snow Removal Project
Large Flat Roof Snow Removal Project
  1. The first step is to remove the snow from the roof so that the warm roof underneath does not create ice. This is true for both commercial and residential high slope roofs.
  2. Use electrical cables to separate an ice dam or ice field from areas that may be damaged.
  3. Clear about 1 ft. to 3 ft. all around the drain area by using hot water or non-corrosive de-icers. If you really know what you are doing, you can use tools – but be careful not to damage the roof membrane.
  4. Lay the electrical cables (heat wire) starting at the drain and extending to each corner of the roof. Run loops around obstructions in the way such as skylights or rooftop units.
  5. If it is not too cold, the cables will melt their way to the surface of the flat roof giving you pathways for drainage.
  6. Chemical de-icers can be used in the same pattern, but be sure you are using non-corrosive de-icers.
  7. Hot water can also be used to cut drainage paths with some success.
  8. Steam trucks are not considered by most to be an effective method.
Contact Us:
General Roofing Systems Canada (GRS)

24 Hour Emergency Roof Repair: Call +1.877.497.3528 toll-free. info@grscanadainc.com.

British Columbia | Alberta | Saskatchewan | Manitoba | Ontario

Top 10 Snow Removal and Ice Dam Advice for DIY Homeowners

General Roofing Systems Canada provides snow and ice removal services throughout Canada. Calgary, Red Deer, Edmonton, Fort McMurray, Lloydminster, Saskatoon, Regina, Medicine Hat, Lethbridge, Canmore, Banff, Cranbrook, Kelowna, Vancouver, Whistler, Winnipeg, Toronto and points between. British Columbia. Alberta. Saskatchewan. Manitoba. Ontario.

Many homeowners are asking us for a “how-to” snow removal guide because our waiting lists are long in the Edmonton area. Under normal circumstances, we would say nature should run its course and you should not be concerned – leave the snow on the roof.

However, in central Alberta, roof top snow has become a considerable hazard. Roofs are failing, mostly commercial and industrial. Even agricultural buildings at this point have been reported in the news. Car ports and other home attachments are also being added to that list. Ice damming has also become a safety hazard to pedestrian and vehicle traffic.

Removing snow on your own from your roof is dangerous. There are many deaths reported annually in North America caused by roof snow removal. If you are considering braving it alone and are not hiring or waiting for a professional in the Edmonton area, here are some tips to assist you in your removal:

Our Top 10 Roof Snow Removal and Ice Dam Advice for the DIY Homeowner:

  1. You need a partner. When working on the roof, especially with ice and snow, do not work alone.
  2. Your partner needs to ground spot. Vehicular and pedestrian traffic can be hit by snow being thrown off the roof. This is especially important if you are in downtown Edmonton or in a busy commercial area of the city.
  3. Leave some snow on the roof; do not remove the last layer. This is important so as not to do damage to the roof and inadvertently cause a puncture.
  4. Roof weight loads. Snow and ice can be different weights depending on the atmosphere and weather patterns experienced. Be careful with gauging how much snow a roof can handle as snow weight can vary from year to year. A structural engineer should be called if you are concerned. Most homes are well equipped to handle the loads, but this has been an exceptional year of snow in Edmonton. When hearing about commercial and industrial roof collapses, understand that they have roofs that span great areas. Typically, homes have higher pitch roofs and/or flat roofs that are much smaller spans.
  5. Safety first. A harness, rope, anchor, lanyard ladder tie-offs, roof cleats, etc. are mandatory.
  6. Falling off a roof hurts, injures and kills people. We have already received a number of calls in the Edmonton area where people could not wait for us because a leak was aggravating their property. Today we got a call from a daughter who was quite upset that her elderly father got up on the roof and broke his hip trying to make such a repair.
  7. Keep the foundation clear. If at all possible, move the snow that comes off the roof away from your foundation so that in the spring you do not have foundation leaks and related problems.
  8. Do not wreck your roof. Ice salting your roof can damage your shingles or flat roof membrane. Shovels can damage shingles and flat roofs. Stepping in the valley can crack shingles, as well as stepping on roof capping; cracked shingles leak. Stepping on concrete tile, cedar shake, slate, etc. can crack them. Shake roofs are very slippy when wet. This list is enormous – there are many ways to wreck a roof system or roof membrane when clearing snow from your roof top. If you do hire someone, be sure they are very experienced roofers.
  9. Do not be held liableIf you hire a snow removal contractor, but sure they have liability insurance of at least $2,000,000 and are WCB registered. Request a WCB clearance letter that shows they are current.
  10. Check your attic. Many ice dams on roofs in Edmonton this year (due to record snowfalls) are being caused by a problem in the attic. Poor ventilation traps warm air here. Your house could have a condensation issue as a result. Check the air intake under the soffits and be sure your insulation is not on top of the air intake. Check your vapour barrier; is it sealed? Or is it allowing warm air into your attic, which then causes the roof material to warm and freeze? Also check your exhaust vents near the roof ridge (or peak); are they plugged with snow? This is one of the most common problems we are uncovering right now. Your roof needs to be able to breath and the attic needs to be cold or else serious problems will ensue. While up in your attic, you should also check for structural cracking in the roof truss system. Check insulation to be sure it is dry and check the roof sheathing to be sure there is not excessive frost on the underside. Lastly, check your venting requirements for airflow to ensure that you have enough vents installed.

For those DIY roofers in Edmonton, we  hope this article has helped.

Our final piece of advice is to simply wait for the professional. Please.

‘Til next time,

GRS

Contact Us:
General Roofing Systems Canada (GRS)

24 Hour Emergency Roof Repair: Call +1.877.497.3528 toll-free. info@grscanadainc.com.

British Columbia | Alberta | Saskatchewan | Manitoba | Ontario

Hiring a Roofing Contractor for Roof Snow and Ice Removal

General Roofing Systems Canada provides snow and ice removal throughout Canada. Calgary, Red Deer, Edmonton, Fort McMurray, Lloydminster, Saskatoon, Regina, Medicine Hat, Lethbridge, Canmore, Banff, Cranbrook, Kelowna, Vancouver, Whistler, Winnipeg, Toronto and points between. British Columbia. Alberta. Saskatchewan. Manitoba. Ontario.

While we are on a ten minute sandwich break with our 24/7 operations across Western Canada, we thought it best to write a quick article on hiring a roofing contractor. Our phone lines are backed up at times – we have never experienced not being able to attend to the volume of calls before, and out waiting list can be frustrating for some (please accept our sincere apologies for this), so we have put a list together as a guide to help you during the hiring procedure for an available contractor.

Some things to consider when hiring someone to remove the snow or ice from your roof

  1. Ask for a copy of their insurance. Be sure you see it first hand. We carry a $5,000,000 liability for a reason. If the person you hire falls off your roof and is injured or is killed and they do not have the proper insurance, you will be held responsible. Most homeowners do not know how important this is. VERY IMPORTANT.
  2. Workers’ Compensation Board. Ask for a copy of their WCB. Ask for a WCB clearance that is recent, as this shows they are up to date their their premiums and active.
  3. City business licence. Self-explanatory… be sure that you see it first hand.
  4. Experience. Easy to check. Look at their website and client base or ask them for some of their clients you can contact. Call references if they do not have a detailed website that shows experience.

You must get someone on your roof with experience

We only put experienced roofers on our work-sites to remove snow and ice or do repairs. Of course, we also staff helpers, but a certified or very experienced roofer is important. Here’s why: only a roofer knows that if you step in a valley that it shingles, and subsequently when thaw comes the system will leak terribly. A roofer knows you cannot step on the shingle cap. An inexperienced worker on your roof will cause damage – guaranteed. These damages will not show up until thawing comes around, and then your roof will leak. Cost wise, a leak is much worse than snow removal.

When calling us for roof snow removal, ice dams, and roof repairs…

Our phone lines are busy – we really, really apologize. Many of the calls we are getting are commercial and industrial roof collapses or major roof leaks into homes and businesses. It can be tough to keep up.

However, we can help you in expediting the process. Here is how it works:

  1. We are a 24/7 roofing company. Although you can call us, email works better.
  2. We have moved our roof workers into the Edmonton area from all over Western Canada, so we have a lot of staff assisting in the effort. It may not appear organized on the surface, but there are people available.
  3. When you call (877.497.3528) or email (info@grscanadainc.com) our offices, we will take your information and put you on the list of people that need their roof to be serviced.
  4. Our office takes all the inquiries and consolidates the orders, then organizes logistics. We arrange scheduling according to address, severity, etc.
  5. If you put your name on the list and you find someone else to service you prior to our return call, then simply notify us and we will take you off the list. Be sure your contractor has insurance.
  6. You can elect to be put on our 24/7 standby service. As availability opens up, we will call you back when your site can be fit in-between other calls.
  7. The best way to get on the service list is by using email or by using our online form on our website. This automatically puts you in to the scheduling system. Click to Request Roof Quotation.
  8. Keep in mind that even if we estimate our availability as five days, it may be the case that another client cancels or reschedules.
  9. While you are waiting for a callback, you can read through our various articles at the main GRS roofing website as well as our main roofing blog and local blogs. After you have read pertinent field reports and have done a homeowner roof assessment, give us a call and perhaps we will be able to solve some of the leak issues right over the phone.

If you are calling about an industrial or commercial roof snow load or roof repair concern and think you may have a dangerous situation developing, call our 877 line and be sure to send an email along with it as well. All emails are instantly seen by our roofing managers in the field.

All things considered, what might be an emergency in a residential context, for instance, could be as simple as plugged roof vents. Nevertheless, our lines are open and waiting to help answer any questions you have.

Contact Us:
General Roofing Systems Canada (GRS)

24 Hour Emergency Roof Repair: Call +1.877.497.3528 toll-free. info@grscanadainc.com.

British Columbia | Alberta | Saskatchewan | Manitoba | Ontario

7 Foot Drifts on an Albertan Roof

We have been so busy this week we haven’t the energy to write about all that is happening out there. However, we do have a photo we thought would put it all into perspective.

‘Til next time,

GRS

A GRS Flat Roofer Considering His Choice of Profession
A GRS Flat Roofer Considering His Choice of Profession

 

Contact Us:
General Roofing Systems Canada (GRS)

24 Hour Emergency Roof Repair: Call +1.877.497.3528 toll-free. info@grscanadainc.com.

Calgary, Red Deer, Edmonton, Fort McMurray, Lloydminster, Canmore, Lethbridge, Medicine Hat, Vancouver, Whistler, Cranbrook, Saskatoon, Regina, Winnipeg, Toronto and all points between. British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Ontario.

Flat Roof Snow Removal Followup

General Roofing Systems Canada provides snow and ice removal services throughout Canada. Flat Roof Repair; Calgary, Red Deer, Edmonton, Fort McMurray, Lloydminster, Saskatoon, Regina, Medicine Hat, Lethbridge, Canmore, Banff, Cranbrook, Kelowna, Vancouver, Whistler, Winnipeg, Toronto and points between. British Columbia. Alberta. Saskatchewan. Manitoba. Ontario.

 

We are very pleased to report that all of our roofers made it home safe last night and the only buildings we heard about in terms of collapse were some quonsets, barns, and utility sheds (not to undermine their importance).

Crew at work, industrial removal
Crew at work, industrial removal

There was also a communications provider in the Edmonton area that called us with a partially collapsed metal roof system on an industrial style storage building.

Thus far, we have not heard about a home roof structure that has collapsed due to this storm we are experiencing in Alberta or Saskatchewan.

Also of note, when our sloped roofers are removing snow from residential roofs and conducting repairs, they inspect the attic space prior to check for roof ventilation problems, attic condensation that may be causing ice damming outside, vapour barrier problems, and compromised internal roof structures. We have not had any reports from the field of compromised high slope residential roofs, either.

The story is different, however, for low slope roofing systems in Alberta, Saskatchewan, and parts of British Columbia for all but residential areas. As far as homes are concerned, they seem to be holding up quite well.

This is what greeted our flat roofers on Wednesday morning when they arrived from Calgary to a site in Coaldale, Alberta:

Flat Roof Industrial Facility in Coaldale, AB
Flat Roof Industrial Facility

The flat roof service scope was to remove “some” snow and ice from a flat roof on an industrial building the size of a football fielding. One of our roofers commented that “it’s keeping our guys working and we are definitely getting into the best shape of the year.”

Our concern at this point is the volume of snow on some of these flat roofing systems. Adding the melt factor, and more snow on top of that, and the problems for these site owners will be compounded. I suppose we will just have to wait and see what transpires.

Contact Us:
General Roofing Systems Canada (GRS)

24 Hour Emergency Roof Repair: Call +1.877.497.3528 toll-free. info@grscanadainc.com.

British Columbia | Alberta | Saskatchewan | Manitoba | Ontario

Emergency Roof Snow & Ice Removal in Alberta

General Roofing Systems Canada provides snow and ice removal services throughout Canada. Flat Roof Repair; Calgary, Red Deer, Edmonton, Fort McMurray, Lloydminster, Saskatoon, Regina, Medicine Hat, Lethbridge, Canmore, Banff, Cranbrook, Kelowna, Vancouver, Whistler, Winnipeg, Toronto and points between. British Columbia. Alberta. Saskatchewan. Manitoba. Ontario.

Our Alberta roofing crews returning to our offices last night and early in the morning had many interesting reports with regard to snow and ice removal.

One report was not exactly heartening; fortunately, nobody was hurt.

One of our office staffers took a call mid-afternoon from an industrial facility just outside of Edmonton. The client was requesting emergency snow removal from an industrial corrugated metal roof system (low slope/flat).

While on the call, our operator could hear people in the background beginning to cause a stir. There were a few screams and a lot of noise. The distraught caller informed us that a portion of their roof had just collapsed.

Even more concerning was when our service manager arrived on-site. There were staff in the area of the building he reported to when they heard “snaps” and “cracks” coming from the roof. They left that room to inform their management what they were hearing while our office was on the phone with them [management] in the meantime. It was just as they left that area that the whole roof collapsed. ‘Just goes to show that a structural failure can occur without any warning and at any time.

It was a very emotional day. No one was hurt physically, but there were tears to be sure. Clearing snow, clearing ice… trying to help folks on the phone and in person when their homes are leaking very badly or their business roof is collapsing. Even more emotional in the life of the roofer is knowing that there are many more calls that we are not able to respond to when we get stretched thin during “tsunami” seasons.

Our crews continued to roll in through the night and the last of them arrived at about 4:30 am. We will start rolling out crews again sometime around 5:30 am and see how today goes. We are certainly hoping for everyone’s safety and the best for the business and homeowners that we will be dealing with. Serious leaks are expected to start coming in if we cannot remove the snow sooner than later for our current work-sites.

When questioning the crews arriving back at the office, we asked them what could be said or what could be taken and learned from the last 24 hours to assist folks affected by the snow and ice on roofs. This was their response:

  1. If you think your roof may have too much snow load, be sure to get it removed immediately or at least get a structural expert to inspect the roof for load capacity.
  2. If you hear anything at all that does not sound right, leave the building. Today was a real eyeopener for some.
  3. Take some preventative measures. Read up on roof ventilation and ice damming; fix the problems that cause ice buildup before it leads to structural failures. Remove the snow from your roof as soon as possible, and remove ice on the sides of buildings which are immediately hazardous to pedestrian and vehicular traffic.

Apparently, the Edmonton Journal had also caught wind of our latest crew experiences with ice and snow removal. (Update 7-24-2015: The link has since been removed from their website)

Below you will find some pictures from today’s crew reports. One shows over 40 in. of snow on a flat roof, obviously challenging load capacity. Another shows a roof collapse from the inside of the building (imagine how much snow was on the collapsed portion before that happened). Another photo shows a piece of ice on the exterior of a condominium building. Signs of leakage in the eave section of the low slope metal roof for this building will become evident when the melting begins.

40 inches on a flat roof
40 inches on a flat roof
Industrial site requiring removal
Industrial site requiring removal
Interior view of a collapsed roof
Interior view of a collapsed roof
Second collapsed view
Second collapsed view
Jan 17, 2011 Roof Ice, Edmonton AB 5
Ice damming on low sloped metal roof
Jan 17, 2011 Roof Ice, Edmonton AB 1
Metal roof reaching load capacity
Jan 17, 2011 Roof Ice, Edmonton AB 2 (1)
Ice damming along gutter system
Jan 17, 2011 Roof Ice, Edmonton AB 2
More ice damming
Jan 17, 2011 Roof Ice, Edmonton AB 3
Packed snow and ice dam growth
Jan 17, 2011 Roof Ice, Edmonton AB 4
Second view of the same

 

Contact Us:
General Roofing Systems Canada (GRS)

24 Hour Emergency Roof Repair: Call +1.877.497.3528 toll-free. info@grscanadainc.com.

British Columbia | Alberta | Saskatchewan | Manitoba | Ontario