Roof Snow Removal: Alaska Digs Out

General Roofing Systems Canada removes snow and ice 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.


GRS Canada, Inc. has removed snow and ice from hundreds of residential, commercial, and industrial rooftops throughout Alberta, BC, and Saskatchewan.

We have also consulted facility managers at commercial and industrial facilities all over the world on proper snow removal protocols, techniques, and adherence to structural engineering. Live loads on rooftops are important to consider, proer safety for the workers on a roof is critical, and knowing how to remove snow from a roof may just save the lives of the workers and occupants in the building.

Our article on rooftop safety and roof snow removal was spurred by the roof collapse in Anchorage, Alaska and the subsequent news reports talking about “roof snow removal parties”. Our concern is that folks think it is OK to remove snow from roofs without using professional providers.


ANCHORAGE– In the last few weeks several roofs in Anchorage have failed due
to stress from snow. The buildings involved were generally older (pre-1980) with
flat roofs. Several, but not all, failed where snow had drifted.
Newly fallen snow is not very dense. However, over the course of the winter
accumulated snow on roofs becomes denser. Per current code the design snow
load in Anchorage is 40 pounds per square foot (psf), which is equivalent to
approximately two feet of dense snow. A roof designed to current code should
not have problems until the load is significantly higher than 40 psf.
It is recommended that building owners and managers monitor the snow loads
on their roofs. Of special concern are older buildings with flat roofs, and those
with areas of snow drifting, such as at parapets and lower roofs. Special
attention should also be paid to long overhangs where snow blankets are draping
over the roof edge.
If one hears creaking in the roof, observes excess deflection in trusses or beams,
or sees bowing of columns, immediate investigation by a structural engineer is
Conditions on roofs may worsen as additional snow falls in March and April,
building owners should consider preventative roof shoveling. Shoveling a roof is
inherently dangerous, so special precautions should be taken. The intent is to
lighten the roof load by removing a significant portion of the snow, not
necessarily all of it. Trying to remove all of the snow down to the roofing could
increase the danger of a shoveler sliding off the roof as well as causing damage
to the roofing materials.”


Firefighters responded to a callers reporting structural collapse at the South Anchorage church Friday March 2, 2012. Firefighters initially were called with reports of a fire at the Abbott Loop Community Church at 2626 Abbott Rd. shortly after 6 p.m. Callers reported smoke, including one caller reporting an explosion.


How much snow is too much?

Live loads are an important consideration when assessing rooftop snow and possible removal. You need to know how much snow and ice rooftaps can hold safely, what the effects are of ice buildup on roof systems, and how to properly remove the snow so that the building does not become structurally unsound and collapse while you are removing the snow.

Generally speaking – and depending on where you live – most flat roof systems are constructed to safely hold a maximum of 15 to 20 cm or ice or 35 to 40 cm of hard pack snow (70 to 80 cm of fresh snow).

There are many other considerations such as the engineering and age of teh building, or how often the roof can withstand the snow loads.

In Alberta, building codes (as of 2006) require roofs to withstand about 40 lb. of snow per square foot once every 50 years. In this fashion, one can predicate how much their building can withstand every years.

If the snow load on your roof is getting close to the calculations above, you need to have the snow removed from your roof.

Time is also important when considering roof load capacity – this is called the fatigue factor.

Roof collapse can occur on roof systems that have half or less of the live load described above.

Measuring Roof Snow Loads

A “safe” amount of snow or ice on a roof is none at all. Removing the snow will mitigate ice damming, which will keep the roof membrane in a good condition. Regular removal will also keep the roof drains working properly.

When the ice and snow starts melting in the spring, be sure a knowledgeable roofing contractor or a trained maintenance person is regularly checking the roof drains or scuppers to ensure that the water is flowing down the drains, as opposed to filling your flat roof up like a pond.

If you are still convinced that you can remove the snow and ice from the roof yourself, please refer to our blog article here. We provide safety considerations as well as a “how-to” guide.


From the Edmonton Sun Newspaper:

“General Roofing Systems advises that the snow isn’t as much 
of the problem as is the ice build-up underneath. Snow melts, it freezes and then is covered by a new layer of snow. The process repeats until the ice sheet becomes too heavy for the roof to bear. Trouble may not show up until the spring thaw when water that ended up freezing in the attic melts and comes through the ceiling. Then, of course there is the possibility that all that weight will 
cause structural failure.”

Contact Us:
General Roofing Systems Canada (GRS)

24 Hour Emergency Roof Repair: Call +1.877.497.3528 toll-free.


British Columbia | Alberta | Saskatchewan | Manitoba | Ontario

The Asbestos Debate Heats up on the News and in the Roofing Crew Trucks

Anthophyllite asbestos,  Scanning electron microscope pic
Anthophyllite asbestos,
Scanning electron microscope pic

 When it comes to the safety aspect of the roofing occupation, the truth remains obvious.  Roofing is a dangerous. However most roofers don’t stop and discuss it on a regular basis . In fact I often wonder if some of my co-workers are in denial (I think to myself regularly when on the roof, “the stats don’t lie – roofing is most definitely dangerous”).

Just a few weeks back, a co-roofer friend of mine was re-roofing a home (not co-worker as he works elsewhere), he came screaming off a residential two story home and ended up shattering his feet. He was incredibly Lucky that he only sustained those injuries it was not some thing much more serious. With accidents like that you learn to appreciate having to endure broken bones rather than having some one tell your wife and kids that dad won’t be coming home.

When the recent asbestos stories started hitting the news, what I found interesting as a roofer is that the roofers began actually talking about safety in the workplace. The recent public asbestos debates have increased conversations with the roofers around me, and when contractors and “suits” visit I’ve noticed the management, architects, engineers and the like discussing the same issue.

What is peaking the interest of the roofers and management alike is the obvious very present potential danger of asbestos in the roofing material itself…

Common questions and comments around the water cooler (so to speak) go like this;

“We rip these roofs off every day, is there asbestos in the  materials we’re ripping off these buildings?”

“Asbestos in roofing materials?” 

“Are there risks to the roofers?” 

“What about home-owners and business owners, what are the risks to people inside

In consideration to GRS starting the 2012 roofing season with a complete over-haul/ revamping of the safe work practices. We thought it would be best to include information regarding the current debate of asbestos into the safe work place packages.

All GRS safety packages will include articles from this blog, written by other team members about our crews personal journey and experiences towards our effort to make GRS and roofing in general, a safer work environment.

The contributions from the GRS staff will include articles aimed towards safe-work practices in roofing, the equipment we use, and the safety training and certifications roofers can acquire. The GRS staff will also be trying on, testing, and reviewing a number of new safety equipment brands and types of equipment in an effort to broaden our crew equipping horizons. All of which we will share on our blog.

We will keep this article short. But before we go, and prior to follow-up articles, we thought it would be best to provide some background for folks to consider. Listed below are some interesting links to information we found on the internet as it relates to understanding asbestos, asbestos in roofing, what period of time asbestos has been used, what forms of asbestos are considered dangerous, and simple definitions.


CBC News Asbestos WHO2
CBC Asbestos Story


Recycling, Asphalt, and Asbestos:

Roof leak in to school causes asbestos to enter building:

Until next time,

The GRS Roofing Team


General Roofing Systems Canada (GRS)
24 Hour Emergency Roof Repair: Call +1.877.497.3528 toll-free.

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.

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,


Contact Us:
General Roofing Systems Canada (GRS)

24 Hour Emergency Roof Repair: Call +1.877.497.3528 toll-free.

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.

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.

British Columbia | Alberta | Saskatchewan | Manitoba | Ontario