roof collapse
roof collapse

How to prevent your roof from collapsing

Extreme weather conditions, general wear, and poor maintenance can jeopardize the structural integrity of industrial and commercial buildings. The accumulation of snow and ice places stress on all types of roofs. In farm buildings specifically, corrosive materials can build up to weaken the gusset plates that bind the trusses together.

If your roof were to collapse, you could be facing serious property damage, injuries, and even business interruption. This is why it is extremely important for you to conduct regular inspections and maintenance of your roof. Below we outline the two main causes of roof collapse, and provide some tips on how you can help prevent a roof collapse on your property.

1.      Roof collapse due to weather conditions

If the weight of snow and ice exceeds the load your roof can handle, it could collapse. This places people, equipment, and goods in harm’s way. This is why it is important that you remove piling snow from your roof as soon as possible, and do regular inspections.  

How to evaluate your building and roof

Before a storm or blizzard comes your way, reduce your loss exposures by paying attention to the signs of structural distress below:

  • Listen for unusual sounds coming from the ceiling, walls, and roof.
  • Look for sagging, cracking, and/or movement in the ceiling and walls.
  • Look out for water leaks and jamming of doors.
  • Identify areas of the roof where snow doesn’t easily slide off, such as valleys, dormers, and other low-sloped areas.

Removal of snow and ice

It is important that you clean off snow and ice from your roof before the load intensifies further. As temperatures shift, melting snow can freeze into ice. Here are some snow removal best practices to consider:

  • Hire a qualified and insured snow removal company if you’re untrained in these conditions.
  • If you don’t plan to hire a snow removal company, ensure you have adequate training on snow removal, as this is a dangerous maintenance task.
  • Wear personal protective equipment (PPE).
  • For steep roofs, use a telescoping roof rake (durable and extendable rake designed for roofs).
  • Prevent unbalanced roof loads by gradually removing snow from all sides of the roof. Clear snow in a cross direction to the trusses to relieve stress from multiple trusses rather than one at a time.
  • Clear gutters, roof drains, and downspouts.
  • Keep metal tools away from power lines because metal conducts electricity.

2.      Roof collapse due to gusset plates on wood trusses

Gusset plates are light gauge metal pieces that connect prefabricated wood trusses together, that are found mostly in barns and farmhouses. The combination of manure, humidity, and moisture produces ammonium hydroxide gas, a chemical that corrodes metal surfaces quickly. Moisture on unprotected steel initiates the rusting process. Corrosion on metal also occurs in cold, ventilated farm buildings, such as dairy barns.

Without regular inspection and maintenance, corrosive materials can build up and weaken the gusset plates, which causes roofs to deteriorate and fail.

How to ventilate your building

Insufficient ventilation traps moisture inside buildings. Here’s how you can correctly ventilate your property:

  • Evaluate the building’s envelope to ensure the sealing of cracks aren’t too tight (as this reduces the ventilation rate) or too wide (as this prevents the building from retaining the intended temperature).
  • Keep at least one exhaust fan on at all times to circulate air and filter out moisture (some fans only turn on when a heat sensor hits a certain temperature).
  • Increase the strength of a fan or add more fans.
  • Install sensors that detect heat and humidity throughout the building and connect them to a central monitoring alarm system that notifies building owners of any notable incidents.
  • Perform a colour dye powder test to identify “dead spots”, where there’s no air movement.

Inspection of your roof truss system

Buildings experience severe corrosion within 5-10 years, but corrosion is often left undetected because inspections and maintenance aren’t performed. Here’s how you can inspect your roof truss system, and how you can protect your gusset plates if needed:

  • Ensure plates are centered and connected properly on both sides of a truss joint.
  • Document and file all inspections and repairs.
  • For existing roofs, protect your gusset plates with coating or use alternatives to steel plates. For new roofs, determine if using pre-coated or stainless-steel plates (which delays rusting process) or wooden plates (which eliminates rusting) are suitable for your roofing system.
  • Use protective coating to galvanize your steel plates. A truss manufacturer or industrial paint supplier can help you find the proper coating material or an equivalent product. For more information, refer to the Canadian Government Specifications Board.

Protect yourself and your business

Sometimes accident happen. You can’t always control what happens to your business, even if you take the necessary precautions to prevent your roof from collapsing. You can, however, control how prepared you are. Having the right protection in place can make a huge difference to your business and livelihood. To learn more about protecting yourself and your business, visit our Business Insurance page today.

This blog is provided for information only and is not a substitute for professional advice. We make no representations or warranties regarding the accuracy or completeness of the information and will not be responsible for any loss arising out of reliance on the information.

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