Thursday, May 23, 2013
Snow Weight OK for Roofs Built to Fairbanks Code
An approved roof is required to hold 50 pounds per square foot in Fairbanks.
FAIRBANKS - The sight of 18 inches of fresh snow perched on local rooftops likely caused jitters for some homeowners on Monday, but there's no reason for most people to break out the shovels just yet.
The load needed to collapse a code-built roof would still require much more snow, local building officials said. An approved roof is required to hold 50 pounds per square foot in Fairbanks.
"I don't think we're anywhere near that," said Kirk Larson, a city structural building inspector.
Rich Seifert, a longtime building specialist with the Cooperative Extension Service, agrees. A heavy snow year in 1992 motivated Fairbanks to boost its roof code from 40 pounds per square foot, but he estimates even older buildings are "about halfway to the worry level."
Larson said Tuesday he didn't do any snow-weight calculations after Monday's storm because the most recent snowfall doesn't seem to put the total snowpack close to the danger point. Six years ago, an 18-inch snow load in Fairbanks was measured at nearly 17 pounds per square foot - about a third of the current code-mandated roof capacity.
Larson said the weight will vary, depending on the density of snow. But even factoring in a rainy three-day stretch in November that added weight to the existing snowpack, he isn't worried.
"The average well-built house shouldn't have any problems," he said.
Larson warned, however, that the words "well-built" are an important part of the formula. Plenty of buildings around Fairbanks aren't built to code, and he said people who own less-sturdy structures should be careful to maintain a manageable snow load.
"Each person needs to pay attention to what they have," he said.
Contact staff writer Jeff Richardson at 459-7518.