Maintenance is an issue that every business owner – big or small, provided they have overhead – has to factor into their financial plan. And in the winter, weather presents an ever-present threat of damage. Heavy winds can cause long-term power outages and bitterly cold temperatures can cause water pipes to freeze.

But perhaps the most costly source of damage is wet snow that can pile up on rooftops. According to the Insurance Information Institute, roof cave-ins contribute to winter weather being the third-largest cause of insured catastrophe losses, averaging $1.2 billion per year in the past two decades.

However, business owners can avoid these damaged roof run-ins by investing in a roof that's built to withstand a lot of pressure.

Metal roof systems last an average of 60 years, according to a new study released by the Metal Construction Association. Typically, the roof on commercial building ought to be replaced every 20 to 30 years.

Scott Kriner, MCA's technical director, indicated that what makes metal roofs so worthwhile is that once they're installed, you don't have to worry about replacing them, because the typical commercial building has a service life of 60 years.

"We are planning to conduct more studies on different types of metal roofing, and in some cases we expect similar or even better results in terms of roof service life," said Kriner. "We think these studies will help to motivate building owners and architects to specify metal roofing more often."

The study also found that metal roofs tend to be more resistant to the wear and tear that results from wind damage and precipitation.

How much snow is too much for your roof?
Still, roof replacements can cost tens of thousands of dollars, which some business owners may not be capable of paying. And for business owners who just installed their roof, they have many years before they need to replace it.

Residential roofs are required to be able to hold at least 20 pounds per square foot. Commercial roofs can withstand more pressure, but you may want to go by the residential rule to err on the side of caution. Thus, if there's between 10 and 12 inches of new snow on your business' rooftop, that's equal to about 1 inch of water, or roughly 5 pounds per square foot. This means that you can have 4 feet of snow on the roof before it comes time to think about removing some.

The Insurance Institute for Business and Home Safety has a breakdown of snow totals, the different types of snow that can affect weight and when you should start have snow removed.