Due Diligence for Maintaining Your Portable Shelter in the Winter 1

Due Diligence for Maintaining Your Portable Shelter in the Winter

When you’re deciding what type of portable shelter is right for you, it’s important to anticipate things that might present a challenge depending on where your shelter is. At this time of year, we’re busy doing estimates for insurance companies to replace damaged and collapsed shelters that couldn’t withstand the winter weather, so we thought it was a good time to remind you how to make sure you don’t end up in this situation.


How to Ensure Your Custom Shelter Can Withstand the Winter

Living in a Northern climate presents all sorts of challenges for greenhouses, shelters, homes, and vehicles due to snow, ice, and wind. But by planning ahead to prepare for this, you can avoid having big problems with your shelter in the winter.


Consider the Climate Where You Live When Choosing a Portable Shelter

This sounds obvious, but you’d be surprised how many people underestimate the impact the winter weather will have on their shelters. If you live somewhere that gets a lot of heavy snowfall, rain, and freezing temperatures, you need to plan accordingly to ensure your shelter is up to the task. 

If you live in a very cold climate with continued snowfall, use a solution that incorporates heating. We can supply and hang furnaces in our shelters and greenhouses and also insulate our shelters. Our customized shelters and greenhouses can be built with trace heating in the gutters, which allows snow to melt and drain away. Although this is a more expensive option, it does buy you peace of mind and is less labour-intensive than having to constantly remove snow.


Choose a Custom Shelter Instead of an Out-of-the-Box Solution

Most of the collapsed structures we see are fabric shelters that have been bought online and have not been designed for a specific climate. These can be tempting to buy because they are less expensive than customized shelters, but they are also less durable. You do get what you pay for when it comes to the ability to handle a heavy snow load.

We always recommend a customized Slip Tube structure, but if this is not an option for you right now, there are several things to be aware of when buying a non-customized shelter.  These include the quality of the cover fabric and the durability of the steel used to support the shelter. Be wary of packages that claim to be “engineered for Canadian winters”, because that term doesn’t make sense- the winter weather is different in different parts of Canada!


Remember That Engineering Matters 

When designing a shelter for a specific climate, the durability will come down to the engineering of the building. Think like an engineer and consider the bracing, how close your arches are to one another, and the type of anchoring your shelter has. Again, the advantage of a customized shelter is that an engineer will usually be involved in designing these aspects with potential hazards due to your climate in mind.

The main reason shelters collapse is when the arches are too far apart. Though it’s tempting to skimp on steel to save money, when you space the arches out too far, it weakens your shelter. At Slip Tube, we don’t typically build shelters with arches more than 5 feet apart.


Consider the Orientation of Your Portable Shelter

Winter storms can bring heavy winds that cause falling branches and even whole falling trees. It’s important to anticipate hazards like this by strategically placing your portable structure as best as you can. If your structure is in the middle of a field, it’s likely to be battered by the wind. On the other hand, if your shelter is surrounded by trees, there may be a danger of branches puncturing your shelter. You should also consider whether your shelter is at risk of snow falling off of a larger neighbouring building.


Keep the Snow Off Your Portable Shelter 

Heavy snow loading combined with an inadequately designed structure is a recipe for disaster! When you already have a portable shelter up and it’s snowing, monitor it carefully and remove the snow regularly to prevent damage or total collapse. It’s important to remove snow as soon as possible, otherwise, rainfall and continued cold temperatures can cause a sheet of ice, which is even heavier.

Removing snow can be tricky when it comes to large shelters. There are special tools you can get that have a long rod with a blade at the end to help you pull snow off. Alternatively, you can use a rope to throw over the top and pull it from end to end to loosen and move the snow off the roof. Whatever method you choose, be sure to get outside and get rid of as much of the snow as you can from your portable shelter after every snowfall. 


Prepare Your Portable Shelter for Heavy Winds

The wind-readiness of your shelter depends on the anchoring methods used to secure it. If your shelter is needed in a very windy area, we recommend a concrete foundation, whether it’s a concrete pad, a sill, or concrete blocks. Concrete is heavy enough to provide the weight needed to anchor a portable shelter in high winds.

Another important consideration in windy areas is the design of the cover. Many out-of-the-box shelters have covers that are loosely laced to the frame. A poorly secured cover will flap in the wind, which may cause it to rip, stretch, tear, and potentially even blow off. Slip Tube shelter covers are designed and secured in a way that prevents flapping. Our structures also have a bonnet on either end with straps that can be pulled tight and tied back so the ends of the cover hug the last arch for extra security.


There is colder weather and a few storms yet to come this winter, so there’s still time to consider the durability of your shelter. It can be hard to judge the stability of a structure if you’re not a professional, but the tips above are a good starting point. Please contact us to learn about how a Slip Tube shelter can meet your storage needs in the winter and beyond.