Roof collapses a concern for upcoming weekend snowstorm in Colorado

With Denver expecting between one and three feet of snow this weekend, roof stability is one of the many problems that come with the storm.

It is too late for residents of the metro region to take preventive measures for their roof as the snow is expected to hit hard by Friday.

However, once you have tarmac shingles installed, you can clear a sheet of snow to safely stand up and brush off the snow.

“Aside from that, there isn’t much that can be done,” said Cory Mink of A-Denver Roofing. “Hopefully the roof construction is solid enough, that really matters.”

If you choose to get on your roof, Randy Brothers, president of Elite Roofing, said you need a harness.

Homeowners with roofs made of brick, wood, and other synthetic materials are advised not to walk on them if there is moisture, as there is a higher risk of collapse and the slippery surface.

Older homes are the primary concern as they were built when building codes didn’t necessarily allow for heavy snow loads.

“If they haven’t changed something or put something into code, they are more vulnerable,” said Tom Bouckaert, director of production at Interstate Roofing Inc. Denver.

Older homes usually have a rafter span of 24 inches in the center, he said, which was a little big and caused sag in the roof terrace.

“Over time, the roof terrace is weakened because it spans too much weight with constant snow loads, various weather conditions and general wear and tear,” said Bouckaert.

Bouckaert said newer homes are typically built on a rafter span of 16 inches down the center and are better equipped to maintain the current building code of 30 pounds per square foot of snow load.

Brothers are most concerned about older houses and buildings with flat roofs. Roofs that are steeper hold less snow and fall off more as it melts.

Laura Schwarts, communications director for Denver Community Planning and Development, said that roofs will not be considered non-compliant if they do not meet today’s requirements. The codes that apply to the construction are the codes that were used in the construction of the roof.

“When you look at a roof on a house that is 20 or 30 years old, it depends on the codes that go into building the house,” Schwarts said. “If the roof has been replaced today, the roof must meet today’s building regulations.”

For people with older roofs who want to improve stability, the brothers should speak to an engineer, not a roofer. Brothers said homeowners need more than just roofing materials to add snow load capacity.

Brothers said this process would involve everything from strengthening the rafters to doubling the sister rafters to adding more rafters.

The price for an engineer to produce a report can range from hundreds to thousands of dollars, depending on the complexity of the structure.

Though roofers hope there aren’t many collapses, Mink said that when you have an older home, given possible structural problems, there isn’t much to do.

“If you’ve spent a lot of time driving around town, there are definitely houses you can see with a serious sag on the rooftop,” said Bouckaert. “Unfortunately there can be some under any circumstances (roof collapses).”

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