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How Maintenance Teams Can Evaluate Roof Snow Loading Issues After Excessive Snowfall

In the wake of a severe winter storm, it’s crucial that facility maintenance teams evaluate buildings and roof systems for damage. Excessive snowfall amounts and drifting snow pose a major concern by overloading roof systems and may result in structural failures. If you receive an unusual amount of snowfall this year, your facility could be at risk of seeing substantial damage.

Gray Construction recommends performing a visual inspection to check the building’s structural members. If you notice unusual amounts of deflections, broken welds, or twisted members, contact a structural engineer immediately. We also suggest that Operators consider the following simple method for measuring roof/building snow loads this winter. 


What You’ll Need:


1) A 6″ pvc dwv pipe longer than the snow is deep, but at least 36″ long

2) A yard stick or carpenter ruler

3) An accurate scale which can weigh up to about 50 pounds


What to do: 


  • Weigh the empty pipe to establish its empty weight
  • Vertically insert the tube into the snow and remove the core
  • After the core is removed, measure the hole for its depth
  • Then, weigh the pipe and the snow core
  • Record the depth of the core and the weight of the core
  • Empty the pipe and proceed to the next sample
  • The pound per square foot load is roughly 5 times the weight of the sampled core


Our recommendation is for the Operator to take numerous measurements in open undisturbed areas in the vicinity of the building to establish the ground snow load.  If the ground snow load is less than the roof design load, then the Operator could proceed to the roof and take samples from there.  If the sampled ground snow load is at or above the roof design load, further investigation needs to occur before anyone gets on the roof.


We hope that you find this procedure to be helpful when evaluating your facility for damages after a snow load.

    Some opinions expressed in this article may be those of a contributing author and not necessarily Gray.

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