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The Slope Is The First Step: Snow And Ice Safety Around Steeply Sloped Roofs

by Harry Martin

If you're trying to obtain a pre-engineered steel building for use on your construction site, agricultural land, or other industrial property, you know that you need it to stay upright and safe in bad weather. If you are in an area that sees heavy snowfall or ice buildup, you must ensure the building will not collapse under the weight of the ice or snow. One way to help prevent that problem is to get metal buildings with a sloped roof, but the safety precautions don't end there. Here's a glance at other considerations when adding another building to your site with winter on the way.

Steep Slopes Don't Prevent All Buildup

Pre-engineered metal buildings are often available with steeper slopes, such as 6:12 -- that's a very prominent slope that can help snow slide off and water run off before it freezes into ice. However, the slope itself won't prevent buildup if there are any blocks, such as ventilation pipes, misaligned eavestroughs, or debris stuck on an eavestrough or other section of the roof.

Buildup Must Be Monitored

Pre-engineered buildings have known design loads, so if you start to see ice or snow build up, you can compare what you see to the known load. For example, if the roof has a load value of 50 pounds per square foot, then 1 foot of snow is not going to be a problem. Even 1 foot of very wet snow is only going to weigh about 21 pounds per square foot. But if you see the snow building up quite a bit in an area, say to 4 feet, that very wet snow can weigh about 83 pounds per square inch. That exceeds the design load value of the building, and you have to either evacuate the building or have someone with experience knock the snow off the roof.

The risk is even worse for ice. Only 1 foot of ice buildup weighs about 57 pounds per square foot, which would exceed the load value of the building.

Uneven Loads Are a Risk

Whether you have a roof slope that allows for buildup, or there are areas that catch more snow than others on the roof, you have to watch out for uneven loads. Sometimes snow can slide off one area of the roof, but not another; other times you just have a pile of snow stuck by a vent. These can place even more stress on a building's roof. Do not assume that just because the buildup is in a small area that it won't cause a problem.

Building Perimeters Have Their Own Dangers

An advantage to sloped roofs is that snow slides off. A disadvantage to sloped roofs is also that snow slides off -- onto anyone standing under the edge. Move parking lots away from the building and mark zones around the perimeter of the building that warn people of falling snow.

If you need more information about dealing with snow and ice loads, talk to a local company that makes pre-engineered metal buildings. The staff will be well aware of what winters in your area can be like, and they will be able to help you choose an appropriate slope for your region.