Subzero temperatures can be especially harsh on your exterior, particularly your roof, which is your home’s first line of defense against the elements. What are the ways you can make sure your roof stays in good shape this winter?
VillWell Builders, LLC, your trusted roofing contractor, lists them below:
How Ice and Snow Can Damage Your Roof
It’s important for homeowners to have at the very least a basic understanding of how snow and ice can damage their roof and exterior. Here’s an overview of the reasons why ice and snow can be problematic for your roof:
- Additional weight load on your roof – Snow is harmless in small amounts, but if enough snow accumulates on your roof, the additional load might become too much for your roof to handle and eventually cause some sections to collapse. Remember: roofing systems aren’t designed to support additional weight load for extended periods of time.
- Ice dams – Insufficient insulation and clogged gutters are the usual culprits behind ice dams. If your roof doesn’t have adequate insulation, warm air could rise to your roof and melt the snow that has accumulated on top of your roof. As the melted snow slides towards the edge of your roof, it freezes again and deposits ice near the roof’s edges. And if your gutters haven’t been properly cleaned, the water that’s accumulated in your gutters may form the foundation of ice dams. If the ice dams become large enough, they could prevent melted snow from sliding off your roof and cause it to back up and seep into shingles.
- Freeze-thaw cycle – The freeze-thaw cycle exerts pressure on your exterior and may cause cracks to form on your roof or siding over time. The cycle starts when water that’s trapped in your roof or siding expands. If temperatures drop below 32°F, trapped moisture—which expands by nearly 10% when it freezes—exerts pressure on your roof and exterior. And as temperatures rise again, frozen water melts, causing the surface of your roof to contract. Over time, repeated contractions and expansions can cause roofing damage.
Preparing Your Roof for Winter
- Trim overhanging tree branches – Strong winds can easily knock down flimsy tree branches onto your roof.
- Schedule a comprehensive roof inspection – The freeze-thaw cycle may exacerbate pre-existing roofing damage. Not to mention gaps in your roof can allow heat to escape, which is why it’s important to have a professional contractor inspect your exterior and conduct roof repair if necessary.
- Make sure your attic has enough insulation – According to the Insulation Institute, 90% of homes in the country don’t have enough insulation, which is why you need to make sure your roof has adequate insulation. Otherwise, your HVAC may be forced to consume more electricity to keep temperatures at a comfortable level, and as mentioned earlier, heat can rise to the top of your roof, melt snow, and cause ice dams to form.
- The roofing contractor will also likely inspect your roof’s insulation if there are any warning signs such as cold spots or frozen pipes inside your home. The Department of Energy recommends installing 13-18 inches of insulation in attics. However, local building codes may have different insulation requirements.
- Make sure your roof is well-ventilated – Don’t forget that ventilation and insulation always go hand in hand. Warm air also holds a lot of moisture, and if enough moisture accumulates in your attic or roof, mold—which thrives in damp environments—can start to form. Mold is problematic for several reasons, the most concerning of which is that it can eat away the wooden beams that support your roof and trigger allergies or aggravate respiratory conditions.
- How much ventilation does your roof need? As a rule of thumb, there should be a square foot of ventilation for every five hundred square feet of insulated surface. The soffit vents located on the underside of your roof should also be kept free of any obstructions.
- Clean your gutters and check it for any leaks – Your gutters help protect your roof by diverting rainwater away from your roof and towards the drain, which is why gutter maintenance is a must. As mentioned earlier, the water that has accumulated in clogged gutters can form ice dams, which could in turn cause roof leaks.
- Check if ice dams are forming near the edges of your roof – If the build-up of ice near your roof’s edges is getting thicker, you’ll need to have a professional contractor carefully scrape them off. It’s best to let professionals handle this kind of work, as you may chip away the surface of your shingles along with the ice if you try to remove ice dams yourself.
- Don’t let snow pile up on your roof – The thickness of the snow and ice on your roof shouldn’t reach 70 cm or 5 cm respectively. Avoid using salt or calcium chloride to melt the snow on your roof, as these substances can corrode metal and damage gutters and roof flashing.
- Keep an eye out for warning signs of interior water damage – If water manages to infiltrate your roof, you may start to see warning signs of damage such as ceiling stains, wall cracks, blistering paint and wallpaper. If you notice any of these warning signs, contact a professional roofer as soon as possible. Depending on the extent of the damage, emergency roof repair may be needed.
- Schedule a roof inspection – Even after taking all of the necessary precautions, you can never rule out the risk parts of your exterior suffered weather-related damage. That’s why it’s important to have your roof inspected by a professional contractor in spring.
The same goes for extreme weather events. No matter how durable your roof, it’s bound to suffer some form of damage after an extreme weather event, which is why your roof needs to be inspected as soon as it subsides. Remember: roof repair is conducted, the lower the roofing damage affects other parts of your home.
Choosing the Right Roof Material for Your Home
Keep in mind that your roof is almost guaranteed to suffer some form of damage during winter if it’s not suited to your area’s climate, which is why it’s important to choose a roofing material that can handle the state’s temperate climate.
What are the best roofing options for cold climates? Here’s an overview:
- Slate roofing – When it comes to durability, nothing can beat slate roofing. It can handle extreme temperatures and has a long lifespan. However, it’s also quite expensive and very heavy, which means it’ll require structural reinforcement.
- Metal roofing – You don’t have to worry about snow and ice build-up if you have a metal roof installed. That’s because ice and snow easily slide off metal surfaces.
- Fiberglass asphalt shingles – There are several reasons why asphalt shingles are one of the most popular options in North America. They’re cost-effective, easy-to-maintain, and can handle a wide range of climates. Keep in mind that the durability of asphalt shingles or any roofing material for that matter depends on the quality of the materials used to manufacture them. As such, if you’re not sure about the quality of certain roofing shingles, it’s best to stick to reputable brands such as GAF®.
To learn more about your roofing options, consult a local contractor. Since they’re more familiar with the local climate and building codes, they can make better recommendations.
VillWell Builders, LLC, a GAF-certified roofer with over 20 years of experience, offers a wide range of professional exterior services, including roof replacement and emergency roof repair and services. To schedule an appointment, call us at (203) 879-2118 or fill out this form.