5 Guidelines for Roof Snow and Ice Buildup Removal

Roof snow which excessed specified prefabricated steel building design loading can cause significant distress to your building. Snow can build up in areas around firewalls, parapet walls, valleys, dormers, and on lower roof levels where a roof step occurs. Since the thickness of snow varies depending on weather conditions during and after a snow fall, it is difficult to determine a single value for the acceptable height of snow that a prefabricated steel buildings can safely support. The most sever condition occur when rain falls on a roof already loaded by heavy snow and ice. Absorbing rain water, adding roughly 62.4 pounds per cubic foot, or 5.2 pound per inch of depth. And Never send one person alone on a roof to remove snow

Here are 5 guidelines for roof snow and ice buildup removal:


  1. Get to Digging – Visually inspect the roof to find any unusual bends or deflections of frames, purlins, or joists. Starting in this area, approximately remove one-half of the snow depth in a pattern that does not cause an unbalanced loading condition on the surrounding frames or purlins.
Safety Tip: Proper safety precautions should be taken when working on the roof of a prefabricated steel building.
  1. Traffic Flow – The shoveling pattern should progress from each end wall of the building towards the center. On larger roof areas, additional people working from the center of the building to the ends is recommended.
Remove snow from the eave towards the ridge along the building width, sliding snow off the roof over the gutter. On gabled buildings, remove the snow on both sides of the ridge at the same time. Remove the remaining half of the snow depth in the same manner as described.

Safety Tip: Metal roofs are extremely slippery when wet.

  1. No Heavy Metal – Never use metal shovels or “scrape” the roof down to the surface of the panel. Remember, the objective is to remove the excess weight of the snow, not to completely clear the roof panel of all snow and ice. Scraping the roof will result in broken fasteners and loose compression hoods, creating roof leaks.

Tip: Pay special attention to translucent panels. They are not intended to support roof foot traffic.

  1. Clean and Clear – Keep gutters, downspouts and roof drains open and free flowing to prevent water back up and ice buildup on the roof system.

Note:  Ice damming conditions are especially likely on the north side of a building and in shaded areas. Installing heat tape in gutters and downspouts can also be used as a precaution; however, heat tapes may not be 100% effective in extremely low temperatures and should be checked regularly.

  1. Keep your head on a swivel– Watch for extreme bends and listen for unusual noises when snow and ice buildup occur. And NEVER WORK ALONE ON THE ROOF OF A PREFABRICATED STEEL BUILDING TO REMOVE SNOW!!!

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Remember, winter is coming!

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