5 Winter Commercial Roofing Emergencies – And How to Avoid Them!

winter roofing checklist in toronto.

What does winter look like in the greater Toronto area? While snow can sparkle and glitter, roofing emergencies during the winter months are far from pretty. Rooftop damage caused by blizzards, ice storms, high winds, and the freeze-and-melt cycle keeps Canadian roofers busy all winter long.

Emergency roof repair or replacement, especially in the winter, can be difficult, timely, expensive, and cause significant business losses and property damage. The best way to winter-proof your commercial building is by understanding the most common dangers and steps you can take to avoid them.


Here are 5 of the Most Common Winter Commercial Roofing Emergencies—and What You Can Do to Avoid Them


1. Roof Ice Dams on a Commercial or Industrial Roof

Repeated freezing and melting of ice can cause ice dams that prevent water from draining off your commercial roof. If the dam is unchecked and continues to grow, pooled water can seep inside the roofing materials and damage the roof deck substrate and areas below it.



Prevention Tips:

  • Schedule a professional inspection in the fall to ensure that all drains, gutters, and scuppers are free of leaves and other debris.
  • Remove snow from your roof after significant storms, if and as necessary.
  • Thoroughly insulate your roof, checking that there are no warm spots on the underside of the roof surface.


2. Moisture and Condensation Can Damage Your Commercial Roof

While condensation typically presents on the inside surfaces of windows, skylights, roof hatches, and exhaust vents, excess moisture inside the building is the real cause of the problem. The risk of condensation is higher in winter because of the greater difference between the warm interior air and the cold exterior air. If left ignored, condensation can eventually cause interior water damage as a result of moisture collecting in the roof assembly or inside/around projections [especially abandoned tall cones and roof curbs].



Prevention Tips:

  • Ensure proper ventilation and air circulation to prevent dampness.
  • Lower the building’s humidity control levels and run dehumidifiers.
  • Circulate air in “spot” condensation areas, including corners of windows, skylights, exhaust vents, and roof hatches.
  • Consider thermally enhanced exhaust vents or roof hatches.



3. Preventing Wind Damage To Your Commercial Roof 

High winds can inflict serious damage on a commercial roof. A common issue is wind uplift, which happens when wind exerts an upward force on roofing materials. Signs of uplift include wrinkles or bubbles, missing roof membrane, shingles or insulation, rotting wood deck substrate, and damaged flashings or fascia panels. Damage may be averted with an annual fall and/or spring inspection to identify ponding water, unsecured equipment, loose material, worn-out flashings, and leaks around protruding objects like HVAC systems and skylights [especially any abandoned projections].



Prevention Tips:

  • Schedule an annual fall and/or spring inspection of your commercial roof.
  • After storms with high winds, have a professional roofer inspect to identify any damage.
  • Make sure that all equipment on the roof is fully secured.  
  • Ensure that the roof is kept neat and tidy and that debris is removed in a timely manner.


4. Prevent Snow Drifts on Your Commercial Roof

An unbalanced snow load poses a greater risk to the roof’s structural system than a uniform snow load. Roof projections such as parapets, changes in rooftop elevation, or equipment can cause heavy snow drifts to accumulate, potentially causing the roof to sag or even collapse.



Prevention Tips:

  • Ensure that roof drains and scuppers are clear of debris after major snowstorms so that melting snow can dissipate as soon as possible.
  • For commercial properties, maximize safety by always hiring a company with experience removing snow from commercial roofs.


4. Ceiling Cracks/Punctures on Your Commercial Roof

Winter weather, dense hail, falling debris, and dislodged equipment can leave holes and tears in the roof or expose the roofing substrate. In addition, falling temperatures and increased humidity levels can cause cracks, especially where walls meet ceilings.



Prevention Tips:

  • Repair cracks before they get any larger.
  • If possible, cover any exposed areas with tarps or other protective materials until the issue can be fixed.
  • Ensure that older commercial roofs closer to the end of their estimated useful life are replaced before there are multiple rounds of “emergency” repairs.  This will ensure that the roof assembly will be more capable of withstanding extreme weather events.
  • Limit service traffic on the roof in winter and defer construction that requires the use of the roof as a staging area, where practical, until better weather is at hand to avoid the risk of problems.
  • Consider adding walkway pads to shore up protection against constant foot traffic where applicable.


Inspect, Maintain, and Prevent Winter Emergencies

As the saying goes, prevention is the best cure. Our best advice for extending the life of your commercial roof is to always be proactive about roof inspection, maintenance, and repair. Why? Small problems almost certainly become bigger problems, resulting in costly repairs that could have been avoided.  

To winter-proof your roof and keep it in top condition, contact a trusted commercial roofing specialist for regular inspections and seasonal maintenance. Elite Roofing in Toronto has the resources and knowledge to prepare your roof for the winter. Our skilled staff can reliably take on any roof damage or emergency that winter hands you, with unparalleled workmanship and customer service. Contact us today.