Snow and Roof Safety

As snow continues to accumulate on flat roofs of buildings and houses, you need to be aware of the potential hazards and important safety measures you need to take to keep you and the occupants of your building safe.

For commercial buildings…

Fairfax County recommends you monitor the snow on the roof of your building, especially in areas of drifting snow.

Most commercial buildings are designed to accommodate a roof snow load associated with 24 inches of dense, compacted, and/or wet snow. 

Please pay attention to the warning signs of roof distress:

  • Sagging roof members including steel bar joists, metal decking, wood rafters, wood trusses and plywood sheathing.
  • Popping, cracking and creaking sounds.
  • Sagging ceiling tiles and/or sagging sprinkler lines and sprinkler heads.
  • Doors and/or windows that can no longer be opened or closed.

If you notice one or more of the warning signs, you need to evacuate the building immediately.

For single family houses, duplexes and townhouses…

Most homes in Fairfax County have sloped roofs and therefore the risk posed by snow accumulations is less than a flat roof.

If you have a flat roof on your house or a portion of your house, monitor the ceiling below.  Look for signs of roof distress:

  • Sagging ceiling beneath the flat roof.
  • New cracks on your ceiling drywall or plaster.
  • Popping, cracking or creaking sounds.
  • Doors and/or windows that can no longer be opened or closed.

Please evacuate your house or the portion of the house with a flat roof if you notice any of the warning signs listed above.

Do NOT climb onto your roof to shovel snow.

If your roof has collapsed, please call 911.

Not all roofs are designed and constructed the same.  In no case does Fairfax County recommend you climb to your roof and begin clearing snow unless you are directed by a professional.

As snow begins to melt, it can create puddled water which poses the same risk to your roof as dense snow.  Therefore, you must ensure drains, scuppers and downspouts are free of snow and that there is a clear path for the water to drain.

Building Division
Telephone: 703-222-0114, TTY 711

This document is available in alternative formats and languages. Please call 703-222-0114, TTY 711, for more information.

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