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How to Get Your Roof Ready for Snow

How to Get Your Roof Ready for Snow

How to Get Your Roof Ready for Snow

Winter might be the most wonderful time of year, but it can do a number on your home. One area that’s hit particularly hard by cold, snowy weather is the roof. Is yours prepared for another season of snow and ice?

The best time of year to prepare your roof for winter is in the fall, before the long cold season is upon us. Start with the tips below. The more you can do to prepare, the fewer problems you’ll encounter when the snowy season finally begins.  

  1. Clean Your Gutters

Fall is when you can expect your gutter system to become clogged with leaves and debris. Clogged gutters cause water to back up in the gutters and spill over the troughs. This can be damaging to your roof and siding any time of the year, but is of special concern during the freeze and thaw cycles of winter.

The more often you clean your gutters the better your roof will withstand the winter elements. To prevent clogged gutters in the first place, consider gutter screens or guards. 

  1. Clean Debris

In addition to your gutters, debris needs to be cleaned from the surface of your roof. Small pieces hold moisture, especially during the winter, and can cause the roof to mold or, worse, rot. That’s an expensive repair you don’t want to face.

The best way to clean your roof is to get up there with a broom or blower. You’ll want to pay attention to the roof’s valleys and dips, where debris and water are more likely to collect. If you’re inexperienced in climbing on roofs, it’s best to leave this task to a roofing expert. 

  1. Prepare Your Insulation

One area people don’t think about when it comes to their roof is insulation. Insulation is what keeps cold air out and warm air inside. If you don’t have adequate insulation in your attic, you’ll be letting the warm air escape, driving up energy costs.

In addition, if it doesn’t have proper insulation, your roof—and even your home—will likely suffer moisture damage. This can be expensive to fix, and could be catastrophic if your roof begins to develop mold or rot. The best way to guard against this possibility is to hire an insulation expert to check your attic insulation on a yearly basis in preparation for winter. 

  1. Look for Roof Damage

Now that your roof is clean and clear, it’s time to look for problems and damage. If you notice any shingles that have cracked edges, you’ll want to fix these right away. Winter weather can compromise the integrity of your roof, so make sure it’s strong and in working order.

The most important areas to check are around vent stacks, chimneys, and skylights. These areas are most likely to experience problems that could result in leakage.

Keep Your Roof Safe in the Winter

Snow and ice add a lot of stress to your roof, so don’t wait for winter before taking steps to keep it safe. Fall is when you want to make sure everything is ready for the season ahead. The best action is preventative action, so take the above tips seriously.

Is Rock Salt Causing Damage to your Roof?

Is Rock Salt Causing Damage to your Roof

Is Rock Salt Causing Damage to your Roof

When the winter months hit and the snow begins to fall, one of homeowners’ first concerns is often the accumulating snow on their rooftop. While it’s completely manageable with the right information and resources, snow and ice that piles up on what is literally “the roof over your head” is understandably worrisome for a few reasons:

  • Ice dam formation
  • Icicle formation
  • Attic condensation problems caused by contrasting temperatures and potentially leading to mold and wood rot
  • Heavy snow loads that could cause cracking, leaking, sagging or even ceiling collapse
  • Worsening of existing problems such as loosening unsecured roof flashing, dislodging weak shingles, and prying open gutter seams where caulking is already damaged

Given that a sound roof is essential and that roof repairs, especially in the winter, can be costly and potentially dangerous, it’s important to understand how to effectively and safely melt snow from your rooftop.

When people think about the best way to melt snow, often the first thing that comes to mind is the old stand-by, spreading rock salt. Rock salt is relatively inexpensive, easy to find, and historically has been the most commonly used method for melting snow. But, can it cause damage to roofs? 

How Rock Salt Works

Rock salt lowers the freezing point of water. When it’s combined with snow, it mixes with melting snow and ice to form a brine solution. When this brine solution comes into contact with more snow and ice, it causes more melting.

Because of the nature of this process, more rock salt needs to be added over time. Rock salt is also only effective at temperatures down to about 20 degrees Fahrenheit.

What Rock Salt is Doing to Your Roof

Rock salt is not the most effective or efficient method for managing snow on your rooftop. This is because of its temperature limitations, the impracticality of reapplying it during adverse conditions, and the large volume needed to address issues like ice dams. Aside from being ineffective, it also is damaging.

Rock salt is corrosive in nature. As a result, it can cause damage to vulnerable parts of your roof, including nail heads and aluminum flashing. Rusting nail heads can cause aesthetically unpleasant staining, but more importantly, they can result in loose roofing materials that can easily tear off during stormy weather.

In short, rock salt can compromise the integrity of a sound roof by corroding the materials that help keep it together.

Aside from its direct damage to a roof, using rock salt on your rooftop can have other harmful consequences. Runoff can cause:

Rock salt also presents health risks for people, and causes significant damage to waterways, wildlife, plants and soil due to the high volume of its use and consequent runoff.

How to Protect Your Roof During the Winter

Here are some alternative, and more favorable, options for keeping your roof safe from both accumulating snow and rock salt during the winter months:

Remove snow manually 

This method requires that you use a roof rake or plastic—rather than metal—shovel to reduce the potential for damage to roofing materials. Some other considerations to keep in mind are to

  • Be aware of your roof’s landscape in order to avoid skylights, vents and gutters
  • Maintain safety by staying firmly planted on the ground rather than using a ladder or getting up on the roof
  • Avoid clogging rain gutters and downspouts with snow
  • Avoid letting gathered snow accumulate in heavy piles, even for a short while, on potentially weak areas of the roof
  • Leave approximately 2 inches of snow on the roof in order to avoid damaging it

Use alternative de-icers 

There are alternative de-icers to rock salt. These need to be applied to the roof and then reapplied when they become diluted or blow away, but in general they are considered less damaging to housing materials and landscape than is rock salt.

These alternatives include:

  • Urea
  • Calcium, magnesium and potassium chlorides
  • Liquid potassium-acetate
  • Calcium-magnesium acetate

Heated Snow Melting Mats

This snow melting alternative offers a durable option that is designed to be left outdoors all winter. These mats are easy to install and operate and can be controlled from indoors with the click of a button or with a wireless remote control outlet and switch. Options such as a snow sensing controller that turns the mats on when moisture is detected and temperatures drop below 38 degrees Fahrenheit also make it possible to manage snow removal from your roof automatically.

Heated snow melting mats have an energy-efficient design and cost about $1 per day to operate. The technology, design, and material quality behind them also ensure that the highest electrical safety standards are upheld.

The availability and low cost of rock salt hardly seem worth it when you consider the damage it can cause to your roof, home and property, not to mention the high price of roof repairs come springtime. Safety, efficiency and practicality are all important factors to keep in mind when considering an alternative to protecting the integrity of this crucial aspect of your home during the winter months.

The Dangers of Rock Salt on Roof Shingles

The Dangers of Rock Salt on Roof Shingles

The Dangers of Rock Salt on Roof Shingles

Rock salt's ability to damage driveways and other outdoor pavements is relatively well known, but there is another place where rock salt can do damage to your home — on the roof top.

Why You Shouldn't Use Rock Salt on Your Roof

In their determination to melt away ice dams growing on their roof's eave, and thus, potentially prevent leakage and damage to their home's interior, many reach for the deicer they are most familiar with (rock salt) as the solution.

However, there are a number of reasons why rock salt is not a good way to cure ice dams, including these:

  • It is ineffective: Rock salt will only melt ice down to 20° F (-6.67° C), so it will only work at all on "warmer below-freezing days" in the narrow range of 20 to 32° F (-6.67 to 0° C). Furthermore, the typical ice dam along an eave contains hundreds of gallons of frozen water and would require too many pounds of rock salt to melt it to be truly practical.

  • It rusts nail heads: Rock salt doesn't hurt asphalt shingles much, but it can cause the nails holding your shingles to the roof to corrode. These rust spots can spread to make "stains," but more importantly, your shingles will be vulnerable to being torn off in the next major wind storm or even falling off on their own.

  • It rusts other parts of the building: Rock salt scattered along your roof edges won't simply stay there. It will wash over the eaves and potentially corrode aluminum siding and galvanized gutters/downspouts.

  • It can travel to garden beds: Once rock salt mixes with water and runs down your downspouts, it can reach garden beds and "poison" the soil. Many plants are sensitive to salt exposure and could lose leaves and branches or even perish as a result of "rock salt run-off."

  • It can damage masonry: Rock salt mixed with water may also run over the roof edge and onto stone or brick masonry. Salt then gets in through the porous surfaces and accelerates freeze-thaw damage in much the same way as with concrete/asphalt driveways.

How to Remove Ice Dams Without Using Rock Salt

First of all, do not use table salt as a rock salt substitute, for it has the exact same chemical composition (though smaller salt crystals). Also, it is very risky to chip away at an ice dam with a hammer, ice pick, or shovel. This will likely damage your shingles, which are already brittle from the cold.

However, you can use a long-handled roof rake to clear snow from off your eaves to prevent ice formation. You can also better insulate and ventilate your attic to reduce the ice dam effect or even just lower the temperature on your thermostat.

In extreme cases, it may be advisable to hire a professional roofer to steam-melt the ice dam, though this can be expensive. If you want to use a deicer, however, the best choice is calcium chloride. Calcium chloride works down to -25° F (-31.67° C), melts ice faster than rock salt, and is less damaging to your property.

But instead of scattering the calcium chloride all over the ice dam, just target a channel across the dam in places where you can control the run-off in a safe way. Also, remove the snow line just above the ice dam to prevent it from growing any larger. As you isolate and cut up the ice dam, the bond between the ice and roof shingles will be weakened until it is safe to use hand tools to manually remove the remaining ice.

Rock salt may seem like an easy solution to ice dam problems, but it is actually a poor solution that causes more problems than it solves. Preventative and removal methods not involving rock salt work much better and do not damage your roof.