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Loss Control & Risk Management

Weather-Proof Your Business

Whether it’s from snow, wind or rain, severe weather can wreak havoc on your commercial building. Taking precautions against the elements can save you time, money and the inconvenience that comes from building repairs. Read our tips for protecting your building against Mother Nature.

Severe Winter Weather

Deep snow can mean deep trouble; and rain on top of snow can lead to a collapsing roof and serious damage to the building and its contents. Flat roofs are more susceptible to snow collection due to drifts that accumulate, as well as roofs that top buildings next to taller structures. In addition to knowing the type of roof that tops your structure, it is helpful to know the building’s weight limit. Newer structures will likely have more information regarding the snow loads they can handle. Buildings with lightweight roofs, such as metal or built up roofs on bar joists, cannot handle as much weight as heavier roofs. Here are some guidelines to help determine the weight of the snow and ice accumulation.

Fresh snow. 10 to 12 inches of new snow is equivalent to one inch of water, or about five pounds per square foot, so you could have up to four feet of snow before you need to worry about it being a roofing risk.

Packed snow. Three to five inches of old packed snow is equal to one inch of water, or about five pounds per square foot of roof space, so anything more than two feet of old snow could be dangerous.

Mixed snow. The total accumulated weight of two feet of old snow and two feet of new snow could be as heavy as 60 pounds per square foot of roof space, which nears the weight limit of even the best designed roof.

Ice. Ice is much heavier; each inch equals one foot of snow. If you are concerned about snow and ice buildup on your roof, call a professional for an inspection or removal.

Wind Driven Rain

More than 60 percent of the Unites States is vulnerable to damage from high-wind events such as hurricanes, straight-line winds and severe thunderstorms. Engineers have discovered that simple steps can make a big difference when it comes to reducing the damage from wind-driven rain. It pays to prepare early; follow these steps to protect against this harmful element. Whether it is from snow, wind or rain, severe weather can lead to damages that can be costly and affect your business. Taking precautions against the elements can save you time, money and the inconvenience that comes from building repairs.

  • Identify and repair leaks around windows and doors. If you see peeling paint, it may be a sign of a leak.
  • Make sure the flashing on your roof does not leak and is secured properly.
  • All vents should be well anchored to the roof.
  • Make sure that basement windows and doors have built-up barriers or flood shields.
  • Identify and replace where wood siding has experienced water damage.
  • Properly paint and seal exterior walls.
  • Make sure landscaping does not include soil or other bedding that is mounded up against an exterior wall; surrounding landscape should slope down and away from the building.
  • Plants and vines should be kept off all exterior walls.
  • Ensure windows, doors and garages are secure, sealed and insulated properly.
  • If you do experience damage from wind driven rain, remove all standing water, board up broken windows and remove all carpets and damaged personal property.


According to the National Severe Storm Laboratory, lightning is the most dangerous and frequently encountered weather hazard. Lightning has the power to rip through roofs, power through brick and ignite fires. Thunderstorms occur virtually everywhere and that puts all commercial buildings at risk, but can be curbed by establishing a lightning protection system. Your location, frequency of thunderstorms, soil compositions and building occupancy are all factors to help determine if you need a lightning protection system. A lightning protection system provides a specified path to harness and safely ground a lightning bolt, and can save lives and reduce costly damages to your business.

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Related Topics: Protecting Your Business , Safety Programs