Home Maintenance

How the Different Winter Elements Affect Your Home's Roof

How the Different Winter Elements Affect Your Home's Roof

How the Different Winter Elements Affect Your Home's Roof

Winter weather can be hard on your home in general, but usually, your roof will suffer more than any other part of your house. This damage can be attributed to particular elements of winter weather, each of which tends to harm your roofing in different ways. Knowing what these dangers are and how to minimize the risk can save you money by preventing expensive repairs.

Below, we look at how the various elements of winter weather affect your home's roof, and include a few tips on damage-prevention:

Wind Damage

Some of the strongest wind storms occur during the winter season, which often leads to shingles being torn off, loosened, or broken off. The wind also frequently rips off or loosens up flashing, and it is especially hard on a roof's ridges and rakes, which are more exposed to the wind stream.

The first solution is simply to invest in a superior quality shingle with a warranty on wind damage up to 110 mph (160.9 km/h) rather than the standard three-tab warranty of 60 to 70 mph (96.5 to 112.6 km/h). However, apart from re-roofing, you can prepare for winter winds by having a professional contractor inspect your roofing and fix all problems before winter arrives. Also consider having a tree-trimming service cut back any overhanging or dead branches that a strong wind could break off and slam against your roof.

Snow, Ice, and Water

Snow, ice, and water "work as a team" to destroy your roofing and infiltrate your house. The dangers include:

  • Snow can pile up to several feet thick until its weight exceeds the load-bearing capacity of your roof. This will first lead to creaking sounds, cracks above your windows and doors, and a bowed ceiling, but it could eventually lead to roof-collapse.
  • Ice may build up on the eaves of your home, as snowmelt runs down to the roof's edges and re-freezes. This ice dam effect may block your gutters and prevent water from finding a pathway off your roof.
  • Water, backed up behind the ice dam, will freeze and thaw, creating leakage points, besides exploiting pre-existing leak-prone areas. Your drywall, ceilings, floors, and more may then suffer heavy water damage. Mold and mildew will likely appear, creating a health hazard.

The best preventatives are:

  • Keep an eye on the snow depth on your roof, remove snow from the edges with a long-handled roof rake on occasion, and call in professional help if the situation becomes critical.
  • To minimize ice damming: clean out your gutters in late fall, insulate and ventilate your attic, and treat your eaves with a liquid de-icer.
  • Have a roofer inspect your roof for leakage points before and after each winter. Vents, valleys, and the chimney especially need attention.

Hail Damage

Hail can dent metal roofs, metal vents and flashing, and badly damage ridge caps since they receive the most direct hits. It will also leave small, circular impressions on some of your shingles, which will weaken them, shorten their lifespan, and possibly lead to water getting under the shingles.

You really can't prevent hail damage other than by using heavy duty shingles, but once it occurs, get a roofer to examine its extent and severity. You may need to replace the whole roof or only part of it, and you need a professional assessment to give your insurer.

When cold weather arrives, it will also bring with it wind, snow, ice, water, and hail that can put your shingles to a severe test. You cannot control the elements, but you can take steps to minimize the risks that they pose to your roof.

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