How Snow Accumulation Could Impact Your Building

Property & Casualty

How Snow Accumulation Could Impact Your Building

The Brown & Brown Property Claims team has assembled a quick overview of property damage warning signs following a winter storm and what can be done to address them. 

Warning Signs of Damage

  • Bowing, sagging and cracking fractured trusses/purlins are likely warning signs of overloading 
  • Fresh cracking in plaster or drywall may suggest shifting or moving framing members 
  • Doors suddenly become out of plumb or no longer shut properly 

These issues can also impact buildings in other regions of the country with a more moderate snowpack. Building codes are often not designed to carry the same snow loads that are anticipated in colder climates. Older buildings are especially susceptible due to less stringent building codes during construction or aging building materials.  

It’s important to note that as people are absent from buildings due to remote work environments, holiday travel or other factors, some of these signs may go unnoticed. Even while out of the building, be vigilant in checking for damage, especially after a snowfall or potentially catastrophic storm. 

Suggested Responses to Snow Load Issues or Signs of a Potential Collapse: 

  • Contact a structural engineer to evaluate the structural stability and determine if shoring or other emergency repairs are necessary. 
  • Safely remove snow from the roof and hire outside vendors to assist when necessary. Be careful with snow blowers and other equipment, as additional damage can occur to the roof if not properly used. Areas most susceptible to snow accumulation are along parapet walls, where there is a difference in roof elevations and valleys. 
  • Keep operations and employees out of impacted areas until the licensed engineer determines the situation is stable. 
  • Evaluate whether it is safe to maintain utilities in the area or if they should be shut off as a precaution. 
  • Notify your insurance carrier and broker of the situation. 
  • Complete shoring and temporary repairs in line with engineer recommendations to mitigate further damage. 
  • Take photos and video, save invoicing for incurred expenses and track internal labor used to respond. 

If a Catastrophic Collapse Has Occurred: 

  • Isolate the entire area from the balance of your premises or operation. 
  • Notify your insurance carrier and broker. 
  • Turn off utilities to help prevent further damage. 
  • Identify alternate means for production or operations if they are impaired. 
  • Contact a structural engineer to evaluate any remaining portions of the building. 
  • Gather original building details, plans, specifications and other construction documents available. These will assist with both rebuilding and the insurance claim process. 
  • Contact a contractor for the demolition and rebuilding of the structure. We suggest working with the adjuster to confirm there is agreement on the scope and pricing before completing any of the permanent repairs. 

Learn how Brown & Brown can help if you have been impacted by heavy snowfall this season. 

Property & Casualty Team