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Most Common Roofing Problems in Winter

common roofing problems

When the temperature drops, it is in your best interest as a homeowner to be prepared to protect one of your property’s most valuable assets against harsh winter elements. Winter months can be taxing on your roofing system, pushing even the most durable ones to their limit. If you wish to avoid more complex roofing concerns and full restoration, the key is to spot the signs early. As the saying goes, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. For this reason, we’ve put together a list of the most common roofing problems in winter.

Icicles

 

The recognizable shape of icicles requires the subfreezing outdoor air and a bit of sunshine to form. In such conditions, the snow starts to melt off of your roof, and when the water running down the gutters loses its heat due to the cold air, the water freezes. In extreme cases, improper attic insulation or clogged gutters and downspouts can also cause heavy icicles to form. 

 

While icicles aren’t a warning sign but a typical winter occurrence, they can prove somewhat problematic if they form in walkways, or some other high-traffic areas, for those passing under. Although they are relatively easy to remove, it is crucial to practice caution. For starters, they may pose a threat to you while attending to the gutter. Secondly, by knocking down heavier icicles, you risk damaging your gutters and even causing them to collapse.

 

Icicles can pose a hazard both to your roof and the household members.
Alt-text: Icicles forming on a roof.

Regular maintenance discourages icicles from forming, so keep your gutters and downspouts clear of needles, twigs, leaves, and other debris. If they do form, you can carefully remove them with a broom, thus relieving the excessive weight on the gutters and removing the threat for the household members. Lastly, you can opt for a preventive solution for icicles – roof heating systems that permanently remove icicles.

Ice dams

 

Ice dams are also one of the most common roofing problems in winter weather. They form when the indoor heat starts to rise through the ceiling, thus causing your roof’s higher zones to become warm. At that point, the snow starts melting in patches, then flowing downward and hitting the cooler edges. Eventually, this causes the water to re-freeze and form a slab of ice that grows as more water drips down on it. 

 

To prevent ice dams from causing damage to eavestroughs, ventilation systems, shingles, and even your ceilings, walls, and insulation, you ought to turn cleaning your gutters into a regular fall chore. Next, you may be able to minimize the issue with proper insulation, a sound ventilation system, and airflow in your attic.

Strong winter winds

 

While this may be something you are likely to think about, roofs are significantly susceptible to high-speed wind and hail damage, especially if old or of poor quality. For starters, fierce storms can be the cause of overhanging tree limbs scraping your roof’s surface and its protective layer. They can also loosen the shingles on your roof and even rip them off. Ultimately, after extended wind damage, your roof is likely to start leaking or rotting due to water exposure.

 

After a hail and high winds event, make sure to check your roof for damage, clean up fallen tree branches and other debris, then move on to the interior. Inside, you should check if there are any leaks or wall discoloration. Lastly, if you notice any shingles that have been blown off of your roof or the edge of the roof curling, contact a roofing professional. They will be able to tell you if your roof needs a small repair or full replacement.

 

Aggressive storms can cause severe damage to the structure of your roof.
Alt-text: Roof after a storm.

Condensation

 

Condensation is another common winter roof issue to watch out for. Most typically, when condensation and moisture accumulation occurs in your home, it is because of an improperly ventilated attic. It’s important to understand that your roof and your attic work together as a system. When there’s not enough air circulation, which helps to dry out excess moisture, your attic space cannot regulate the temperature properly, and you risk moisture building up, encourage ice dams, and shorten the overall lifespan of your roof.

Since this issue isn’t immediately apparent, such as ice dams, for example, it can fly under the radar for a long time before you finally notice it. Nip this winter woe in the bud by paying a visit to your attic once or twice a year to perform a routine spot check.

Snow build-up

 

Although not as frequent as the rest of the roofing issues during cold weather, excessive snow load is still something you should be aware of, particularly if it’s a super snowy winter. Too many inches of snow may be too much for your roof to handle, causing it to collapse in extreme cases. And even if a light layer of it starts to melt, it could pool on the roof. Therefore, you ought to keep a lookout for warning signs such as interior doors popping out or getting stuck, cracked walls or leakage, persistent cracking, creaking, or popping noises.

 

Excessive snow or ice build-up may be too heavy for your roof to handle.
Alt-text: Snow load on a cottage roof.

Flashing leaks

 

Layers of snow building up and accumulating moisture on your roof may cause flaws in your flashings. Flashings are the metal pieces placed along your roof’s front edge, ridges, and corners, as well as around your skylights and chimney. Their role is to protect some of the most sensitive parts of sloped residential roofs by properly directing water flow, thus preventing water damage. If your flashing is improperly installed, missing, unsealed, or damaged, this can lead to water leaks. Moreover, water seeping through the underlayment can damage the ceilings and walls of your property.

Regularly checking your flashings could prevent this problem from showing up only after it’s too late to prevent. When inspecting them, look both outside and inside your home to ensure everything’s still sitting flush with your roof. If they show signs of wear and tear, it’s best to have them replaced to avoid leakage that could potentially cause damage to the structure of your roof and interior throughout the winter season.

If you notice damage, call a professional

 

If you notice any leaks, ice dams, jammed doors, sagging gutters, or condensation in your attic, it’s probably time to contact a professional for guidance. In more severe cases of damage, roof replacement is in order. Sometimes, however, the aftermath of harsh weather may be too extreme. In such an event, the smartest thing to do is prioritize safety. Consider finding a different place to stay until the damage is properly evaluated and, then, contact your insurance company. If you need to find alternative accommodation for your furniture during repairs, consider renting a storage unit. However, uncertified storage facilities pose certain risks, so make sure to negotiate only with certified service providers.

The sooner you spot a problem, the easier it will be to fix

 

Your roofing structure takes a beating 365 days a year, but the winter season is when it is most susceptible to damage. So, it’s crucial to remember that prevention is always better than cure, so it’s wise to be alert to some of the most common roofing problems in winter and conduct regular inspections and maintenance. 

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