There is no doubt about it, winter is coming — are you ready? No army of the undead is coming to destroy everything you hold near and dear. However, Chicago winters can be notoriously brutal on properties, buildings, and facilities. As a property advocate, manager, or owner your responsibility to ensure that your property is prepared to weather the storm. Chicago’s Winters can provide some unique challenges and obstacles for even the most vigilant of property advocates, but luckily, there are a few pragmatic steps you can take to prepare for the damage that can occur to your property. In today’s blog here at Structural Technologies in Chicago, we go over just how hard winter can be on your commercial property, what to look out for, and how you to handle it. 

Need help preparing your property for winter? Reach out to us at Structural Technologies in Chicago for a structure analysis today!

Winter Property Damage Stats

If you live in Chicago or its surrounding areas, you know that winter is no joke. Snow can start falling before winter even hits. In fact, significant snowfall in Chicago has been documented as early October! Here are some other interesting winter facts for both Chicago and the United States as a whole:

  • According to iii.org, in 2018, winter storms and cold waves accounted for about $3 billion in injured loss across the country.
  • Also from iii.org, on average, winter storms alone cause roughly $1.5 billion worth of damage in injured losses every year.
  • According to a Chicago CBS news source, the coldest day ever recorded in Chicago was on January 20, 1985, where the temperature dropped to a bone-chilling -27 degrees. Pipes can freeze in 20-degree temperatures, so -27 degrees is more than enough to make pipes freeze — or in some cases burst! 

Perhaps the most impressive winter storm for Chicago though was the Groundhog Day Blizzard in 2011. According to the NOAA, in February of 2011, Chicago and many other areas saw 21.2 inches of snowfall. This brought the city to a complete standstill and in the end, was responsible for $2.1 billion worth of damages from roof collapse, ice damming, frozen pipes, and more. Unfortunately, there were 36 reported deaths due to the blizzard in 2011.

Winters in Chicago are not to be taken lightly. Call us at Structural Technologies today for a free consultation to see how we can help you and your structure prepare for the upcoming winter.

Ice Damming

Ice damming is a phenomenon that occurs when the snow melts, starts to drain, then refreezes prior to it evaporating and (or) draining from the roof. During periods of excessive snow accumulation, these systems become increasingly inefficient. This can result in the erosion of the adhesive and cohesive sealants used to both secure the roof to the underlying substrates and prevent moisture intrusion. Under extended periods of duress, this condition may ultimately result in the failure of one or more of these which allows water to percolate through the roof assembly and into your property.

In residential roofing, roof drainage is accomplished predominantly via slope induced drainage systems. In these systems, runoff is collected in gutters to catch water and move it away from the property. For this reason, ice damming is most commonly associated with sloped roofs. Ice damning notoriously is directly correlated with conflicting views as to what causes it to occur, and conversely, on how to deal with it. Within the professional design community, it is the popular consensus that ice damming is correlated with inadequate insulation and passive venting. This condition is exacerbated at the termination of roof, specifically at the gutter edge, due to the thermal properties inherent to the aluminum that makes up the gutters. This is by and large a result of cold water coming into contact with the gutter edge at subzero temperatures. This results in the crystallization of liquid moisture and formation of ice shelves. This process is then accelerated due to the unequal distribution and concentration of snow at the gutter edge. In some cases, this condition ultimately diverts moisture/water upslope, rendering the shingle roof system and waterproofing elements ineffective.

The result? Your roof begins to leak, but even more problematic is the long term effects this condition can have on your property. When a significant concentration of moisture comes into contact with organic compounds used in the construction of the walls, insulation, wood finishes and sheathing these components become increasingly saturated. If this condition is left unaddressed for an extended period, it can result in in the growth of black mold. Black mold is especially harmful to human health as it can result in “black mold poisoning” which is a form of mycotoxicosis, This can then potentially lead to a host of respiratory issues. This is why, here in Chicago, these issues are so commonly reported, as that they have a tendency to cause catastrophic damages to both Chicago insurers and property owners alike.

Structural Technologies’ established track record of providing our customers with a simple, pragmatic approach to addressing these issues has proven to be an invaluable resource for property owners, advocates, and managers alike. Through implementing Structural Technologies simple three-part system, we have been effective in our efforts in not only combating these conditions but preventing the emergency repair costs associated with them. Through utilizing Structural Technologies’ approach, our customers have seen a return on investment in not only damage prevention but also an increase in systems durability, maintenance costs, and energy efficiency.

Contact Structural Technologies today to get a free-of-charge, no-obligation consultation and see how we can assist you in preparing your property to weather every winter. 

How to Prepare

There are a few things that you can do in order to combat ice damming and prepare your property for the winter. To help prepare for ice damming, you can: 

  • Bring in a professional to conduct a structure analysis
  • Remove snow buildup from your rooftops when it is safe to do so
  • Make sure your roof has sufficient insulation
  • Create a “cold roof” by venting building heat somewhere other than the roof
  • Install heat cables

Don’t let winter wreak havoc on your commercial property this winter, get in contact with the professionals at Structural Technologies to provide you and your property with a free consultation and conduct an analysis of your property before it is too late.

Roof Collapse

On flat roofs, roof drains too can become frozen and ice can build up on the drain. When this happens, melted snow or rain can no longer effectively drain. When the water drainage system isn’t functioning properly, water can build up on the roofing causing a significant increase in load. This exerts undue strain upon the roof, roof deck, and (or) structural supports. This can result in overloading the structural roof deck thereby causing collapse.

Roof collapses, unfortunately, are all too common in the wintertime. Snow, while it may seem light and fluffy, is deceptively heavy. An average 2,000 square foot home with 3 inches of snow on top of it adds roughly 6,000 pounds to your roof, depending on the water content of the snow. This weight can become even greater if the water content and composition increases. Luckily, roofs are generally pretty strong. But, with enough snow and the right conditions, even the strongest roof systems can be brought to the brink of failure. Don’t let your property become a statistic, the best way to prevent future failure is through proper planning, preparation, and execution.

Don’t let winter wreak havoc on your commercial property this winter, get in contact with the professionals at Structural Technologies to provide you and your property with a free consultation and conduct an analysis of your property before it is too late.

How to Prepare

Preparation for winter is absolutely crucial to prevent costly emergency repairs — just ask any property manager! As a property advocate, owner, and manager, your best offense is a good defense. As the age-old saying goes, the devil is in the details. At Structural Technologies, we provide our customers with an in-depth analysis of the entirety of properties managed assets. Our primary concentration is the inspection of those components which have historically been identified as being problem areas. We also conduct a thorough analysis of those systems which undergo considerable change and are subject to additional strenuous circumstances during the colder winter months. These include things such as your plumbing, piping, irrigation systems, roofing, insulation, mechanical systems, and much more. 

Some other things that you can do to better prepare you and your property winter and prevent  damages are: 

  • Stocking up on de-icer, shovels, and other supplies
  • Calling in help when you need it from snow removal services
  • Contacting Structural Technologies for structure analysis
  • Removing ice and snow as soon as it is safe to do so in order to prevent snow build-up
  • Knowing the weather forecast and planning ahead

Structural Technologies

Here at Structural Technologies in Chicago, we have been providing our clients with the inspection and analysis of properties, facilities, and commercial buildings for over 25 years. Since our inception in 1993, Structural Technologies has been based out of Chicago and, like our neighbors, have endured and outlasted the grueling winter months by practicing what we preach. So we not only know exactly what to expect when wintertime begins to roll around but commensurate with the need to prepare for it. Technology is defined as the application of scientific knowledge for practical purposes, especially in industry. As our namesake would suggest, Structural Technologies has built our business and reputation to the application of that knowledge to the advancement of the construction industry and building sciences. Thereby, making our company uniquely positioned to provide our clients with solutions for effective planning and prevention of ice damming, roof collapses, and heating inefficiencies. At Structural Technologies, it is our policy to provide our customers with a completely transparent process from the initial consultation onward. Our team of experts and service professionals is upfront, professional, and available to assist you with preparing your property for the winter and any other needs your property may have. Our name is backed by over 50 years of combined experience, and tens of thousands of hours of enhancing properties durability, efficiency, and valuation at a competitive price. Contact us today to learn more about how we can help you and prepare your property for a successful winter.