Seasonal Tips: Winter

Winter weather is here and as stated in our blog on November 15th, NOAA has predicted heavier than usual snowfall this year.

The following are a few tips to help protect your facility during the cold, harsh winter weather:

Roof
Perform a thorough inspection of the roof at the onset of winter. Pick a mild day, when the sun is shining and the wind is calm, and spend a few hours walking the entire roof surface.

Note the quantity and locations of roof equipment that could be concealed by snow and may need to be accessed quickly (i.e. roof drains, scuppers), identify all potential tripping hazards that would be concealed by snow (i.e. curbs, HVAC lines, etc.) You may want to take plenty of photographs as well.

Inspect your roof for signs of stress, particularly at slope transitions (i.e. flat roof to vertical penetration). During the fluctuating daily temperatures in the fall, building movement can wreak havoc on the roof system near expansion joints, equipment and pipe penetrations, as well as, parapet and bulkhead walls. Metal coping covers and edge termination details also experience a significant amount of movement and should be inspected for damage at all joints.

Inspect and clean all roof drains, gutters and lines. Secure all loose clamping rings and domes. Leaves and debris from the fall can impede flow, leading to a significant accumulation of ice and\or snow this winter. In addition to the potential of structural failure from large snow accumulation, the stress on a roof membrane from even minor snow buildup can open seams and increase the size of minor tears. After any heavy wind storms and prior to any predicted heavy snow storms, re-inspect and clean the drains and gutters.

Ensure that all equipment and housing is secure. This will prevent HVAC access panels tumbling across the roof surface, from puncturing the roof membrane during major wind events.

After significant wind storms, inspect the roof for evidence of wind uplift of the membrane, ballast, copings, edge metal, fascia, gutters and leaders.

A roof is a particularly dangerous environment during the winter. High winds, combined with snow and ice, present multiple hazards. If access to the roof is absolutely necessary during these conditions, all safety precautions should be followed and proper protective equipment should be utilized. Also, consider only visiting the roof between the hours of 10:00 am and 3:00 pm; after the sun has had time to melt the ice and before the afternoon chill sets in.

Take my word for it, being locked out on a roof in freezing temperatures is not a pleasant experience, so be sure that personnel inside the building are aware of and responsible for the individuals out on the roof.

If snow must be removed from the roof, try to avoid shoveling as much as possible. Thick brush brooms are often enough to clear walking paths. If all snow must be removed from the roof, brooms or plastic shovels should be used to push snow to a designated area where it can be removed accordingly. The 1” or less of snow fall left behind by pushing brooms or shovels will often melt very quickly and is certainly not worth the risk of multiple punctures from overzealous use of metal shovels. I recommend keeping one or two brooms near the access to the roof throughout the winter.

Exterior Walls
Visually inspect the exterior facade for all loose or potentially unsafe appurtenances, as well as, any deficiencies that can be addressed to mitigate air and water infiltration.

All window sill planter boxes should be removed as wind and snow present an increased risk to these elements.

Inspect all canopies for any attachment issues that should be addressed prior to any major storms.

If you have not already done so, remove all improperly secured window mounted air conditioner units. The weight of snow on these units will only exacerbate the stress applied to the window frame. Additionally, these units often allow significant air infiltration around the perimeter which is particularly unwelcome in the winter.

After all snow falls and throughout the winter, check for large icicles on the facade. If possible, remove these icicles in a controlled manner before they fall to the ground. If removal is not possible, restrict access to all walkways and common ares below the icicles.

For exterior snow and ice removal, avoid using de-icing salts that are harmful to masonry and concrete. These salts will erode the face of brick masonry and cause cracks in mortar and concrete.

These tips were provided as a courtesy to our friends and colleagues in the industry. Proper safety plans and building maintenance schedules should be in place for all buildings. For more information on this topic or to discuss any issue further please feel free to contact me at bsullivan@sullivanengineeringllc.com.

To view a copy of the original newsletter click here.

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