A well-maintained roof, constructed with high-quality materials, should last between 20-30 years. There are several ways roof damage can occur, with the weather being one of the biggest culprits. Winter can be especially harsh on a house’s roof, and it’s almost never a good idea to simply wait for spring before addressing the issues that the presence of snow and ice on your roof can cause. It’ll be a big and expensive mistake if you wait until spring comes to get a look at the damages you got from winter.
So let’s give you an overview of the main winter roof damage problems that homeowners should be aware of are listed below, and click here to read along with other advice on how to best manage them.
Problem #1: Icicle Formation
Icicles often result from the same kinds of conditions that cause ice dams. While they may seem harmless, they can actually damage shingles and gutters as well as break and fall on those walking below. Eliminating roof-top air leaks and better insulation will reduce icicles as much as ice dams, but you can also carefully dislodge them with your long-handled roof rake or by climbing up near them with a ladder. Be sure the ladder is securely footed, not on the ice, and never walk on an icy roof.
Problem #2: Attic Condensation
When your roof is suffering from winter build-up, especially ice dams, there is a good chance that, just below the roof, your attic ceiling will have excessive condensation. Moisture build-up is no minor matter since this can lead to wood rot and mold. Again, proper ventilation is the answer. However, in this case, it is crucial to plug any leaks in the insulation on the attic floor where moist air from below might enter. Furthermore, appliances, plumbing, dehumidifiers, and other devices can cause excess moisture build-up if malfunction.
Problem #3: Ice Dam Formation
When warm air rises from your heated living spaces, it warms the shingles of your roof and the snow that covers it. This leads to snow melting and dripping down to the colder edges of the roof where it refreezes as ice. Once the ice grows thick enough, it backs up further snow-melt behind it, causing water to seep under the shingles, and eventually into your home through leakage points. Leaks are made more likely when backed up water freezes and thaws, working its way into nooks and crannies and expanding them. The number one way to prevent an ice dam is by insulating and ventilating your attic, but you can also lower the risk by cleaning out gutters and downspouts in late fall and using a roof rake to remove snow from the roof’s edges. You can also install heat trace cables in the gutters to keep melting snow flowing, thus preventing backups.
Problem #4: Heavy Rooftop Snow Loads
Different roofs are designed to handle different weight loads, and if too much ice and snow accumulate on top of your house, the risk of roof collapse is very real. Wet snow is especially heavy, but large drifts of even lighter snow can exert significant pressures. Sometimes, poor roof drainage and/or poor construction can make the situation worse and lead to an over-stressed roof that begins to creak, leak, and cause ceiling sagging. This is a serious situation, so you should not delay in calling in the professionals when you see or hear the tell-tale signs.
Problem #5: Trapped Water
If water gets trapped in your roof, it can cause leaks and damage, no matter the season. Trapped water becomes particularly problematic in the cold months, when trapped water that has been absorbed by roof materials freezes and expands, which can cause cracks. Over the course of a season, this trapped water can freeze and thaw numerous times, each time increasing the damage inflicted on the roof.
To prevent water from getting trapped in your roof, ensure that your roof is properly ventilated. If any minor holes or leaks exist, fix them immediately to prevent water from entering at those points.
Problem #6: Strong Winds
Strong winter winds can damage your roof in multiple ways: first, by loosening your shingles and blowing them off your roof; second, by knocking down tree limbs. Tree limbs heavy-laden with ice and snow are prone to falling, and strong winds can bring them crashing down onto your roof.
If shingles or other pieces of your roof have been loosened or blown away by a storm, replace them immediately to preserve the integrity of your roof and avoid damage like trapped water or leaks. Also be sure to trim all tree limbs that are close to the roof, before they become a problem.
Problem #7: Making Existing Problems Worse
Besides causing new problems, snow load and the freeze/thaw cycle can further loosen already unsecured roof flashing, dislodge shaky shingles, and pry open gutter seams where caulk has already broken. For this reason, it is a good idea to have a roof inspection and maintenance job done before the winter season begins.
These listed problems can affect every homeowner’s roof during the winter. It would greatly benefit you to take things right immediately slowly by slowly. Taking time to care for your roof just before, during, and immediately following the harsh treatment it receives in the cold season will protect your investment in your home by preventing severe winter roof damage, thereby delaying the need for a new roof, minimizing roof repairs, and avoiding costly leaks.