Protect Your Buildings from Snow Loads

Ready or not, here comes winter 

Winters can be pretty tough – especially on buildings. Most people take for granted the amount of stress their houses, businesses, barns and storage facilities must endure throughout the Wisconsin winter months. These structures support snow and ice, otherwise known as snow load.

Sometimes, roofs or entire buildings collapse under the weight that can accumulate in a large storm. The simple fact is, while all buildings are designed to carry some snow load, there’s no guarantee that they will carry the same amount of snow load.

While most homes are required to be built well enough to survive winter’s onslaught, snow load capacity requirements for non-dwelling businesses and agricultural buildings vary greatly. Especially depending where your building is located. Buildings near larger structures, such as other buildings, trees or silos are more likely to collect drift which increases snow loads.  

What is a load on a building structure? 

A load is the force on a building by accumulated weight. There are several types of loads.  


  • “Dead” loads are the gravity loads caused by the weight of the structure itself such as the weight of walls, floors and roofs.  


  • “Live” load is the load superimposed by the use and occupancy of the building such as people, furniture and materials.  


  • “Collateral” loads include objects placed on or hanging from the roof of a building such as an air conditioning or ventilation system, sprinkler system or special lighting. 


  • “Environmental” loads occur as a result of environmental conditions including snow, wind and earthquakes. 


Dead, live and collateral loads are known entities that can be accounted for in the building design process. But environmental loads, such as snow, are variable. Snow load capacities depend on the building type, location, occupancy and primary use. For non-commercial, agricultural buildings, snow loads can range from 12 to 40 pounds per square foot depending on the region.  

We know Wisconsin gets quite a bit of snow. Last year many areas of the state experienced record snowfalls. Eagle River, for example, had over 120 inches of snow!

To see the average annual snowfall in your area, visit the National Weather Service 

Snow Load Removal

Excessive snow accumulation is one of the biggest threats to structures. If you need to remove snow from a roof, use caution.

Falls from roofs or ladders going to a roof can easily occur on snowy, slippery surfaces. Removing snow can allow the snow up slope to suddenly slide down, burying people or animals below. It’s best to stay on the ground and use a roof rake from a safe distance away to reduce risk. Most hardware and farm implement stores carry snow rakes but you will want to purchase one early in the season will supplies last.

When dealing with snow on the roof, use these tips to prevent your farm buildings from collapse.  

Make sure you’re properly covered before winter storms roll in. We can help protect you if your building has a loss due to a snow load.

Contact your local Rural Mutual agent for additional information.