How to Prepare Your Commercial Roof for Fall and Winter

How to prepare your roof for fall and winter in Ontario

With Canada’s harsh winter weather only a few months away, preparing a commercial roof for fall and winter should be a priority for all property owners. Why is this so important? Performing an annual fall inspection and making necessary repairs will protect commercial assets and lower the overall cost of roof maintenance. In the worst scenario, failure to find and repair roof problems quickly may interrupt the occupant’s business productivity, lead to costly interior repairs and, even more important, endanger workers or customers if the structural integrity fails.

The first step is to agree on a roofing maintenance plan with your contractor based on the needs and age of your roof membrane. This applies to new roofs as well as old, as inclement weather can damage a roof of any age. Your maintenance plan also offers protection in that most manufacturer warranties on new roofs are only valid if regularly scheduled maintenance is performed and documented. 


Perform a Commercial Roof Inspection

Regularly inspecting commercial roof systems is a cornerstone of roof maintenance. A thorough semi-annual or annual inspection could detect current and potential future roof problems before they deteriorate further, protect capital assets, and create a safer work environment. We typically recommend inspections in the fall [and spring] season[s].


Fall Roof Maintenance Inspection – Step #1

Before going to the property gather some essential background information about the roofing inspection, including:

  1. Ask the age of the roof membrane and whether the roof assembly is composed of one single layer or multiple layers?
  2. Ask whether there are any known current and/or past active leaks and where they are to be found in the premises?
  3. Determine whether there is a need for other contractors or residents to access equipment or amenity spaces on the roof.
  4. Determine the use of the premises and whether there are any particular areas that have heightened sensitivity to water infiltration.


Fall Roof Maintenance Inspection – Step #2

Before doing anything else, clear all organic and vegetative debris off the roof. Failure to do so before winter sets in can cause roof leaks, ponding water, moss, blocked drains, and other problems. Once the roof is cleaned up, the roofer can check its overall condition and inspect it. 


How to prepare your roof for fall and winter in Ontario


What Should A Pre-Winter Inspection Include?

No two roofs are exactly alike. Roofs may also have distinct features, such as HVAC equipment, skylights, cellular equipment, green roof areas and/or solar PV systems. At the same time, all roofs have common elements to be checked, such as signs of active leaks and damage to membranes.

The overall inspection process includes looking for any signs of deterioration, weakness, and damage. The checklist below covers many of the essential elements to look for when preparing a commercial flat roof for winter:

 Roof drainage

  • Are roof drains, scuppers, downspouts and eavestroughs in good condition and free of debris?
  • Is there a risk of exterior downpipes freezing in the winter and is heat tracing recommended?
  • Are there any areas of ponding water that need attention?
  • Do overgrown trees around the property need to be trimmed back to protect against falling autumn leaves?

Roof membrane

  • Are there any soft spots underfoot, alligatoring, membrane shrinkage, blisters, dips, punctures, or other defects in the roof membrane?
  • Is the roof ballast in place and evenly distributed?  Are there any windswept areas that require attention?
  • Are seals and membrane upturns around rooftop penetrations in good condition?
  • Does the inside of the property show signs of leaks or damage to the ceiling or walls?
  • Are there any signs of soiled, damaged or displaced insulation?


Preparing your commercial roof for fall and winter in Toronto


Metal copings and counterflashings

  • Are metal copings and counterflashings missing, loose, or displaced? Are they adequately secured?
  • Is caulking sealant still good and intact at the metal termination points?
  • Are there any missing or loose siding or soffit panels?

HVAC equipment

  • Are access panels on HVAC equipment in place, secure, and watertight? Is there any abandoned HVAC equipment? Is the waterproofing at any exposed HVAC ducts in place and free of holes?
  • Is the caulking of roof vents intact?  Are all rain caps and storm collars in place and appropriately sealed?
  • Are there any signs of oil or grease spills on the roof?


How to prepare your roof for fall and winter in Toronto



  • Are there any cracks in acrylic skylight domes?
  • Do the seals work?
  • Is there any condensation between the acrylic double domes?

General building concerns

  • Are there any ancillary issues, such as leaks from under overhead garage doors, windows, vertical knee walls, or building envelope?
  • Are ladders and roof access hatches secure?
  • Are there signs of animals on the roof, such as nesting materials and food scraps, and are any corrective steps needed—such as trimming trees or closing up gaps?  


Roofing Precautions to Take While Preparing for Colder Weather

Safety is always the top priority when inspecting and working on a roof. Except in emergencies, only perform roofing work in dry weather and when there is no snow, ice, or standing water on surfaces where you plan to apply roofing materials. In addition, be sure to follow all the recommendations for storing and installing materials such as roofing felts, asphalt emulsions, and insulation during cold weather. In addition to your annual fall inspection, informal inspections should take place after extreme wind or rain conditions to check for any related damage.



Early detection and corrective measures are the best way to protect your roof. Winter weather and storms can wreak havoc on a flat roof, worsening damage and making repairs more difficult. It’s a perfect time for property owners to schedule their annual roof inspection.

Talk to your roofing contractor to make sure all roofing work is done properly and safely. Contact Elite Roofing to ensure that your property is ready for whatever weather comes our way.