Know Your Roof: The Dangers of Winter

You might’ve seen roofers standing atop someone’s home more than a few times in your life. So, it may be hard to believe that something strong enough to hold up a gaggle of burly men can be brought down by something as light and fluffy as snow, but it can. For any homeowner living outside the sunbelt, winter is by far the harshest season for a roof to endure. The combination of water, ice, and snow can lead to a cacophony of issues. 

Homeowners should be aware of these issues that can occur in the winter months:

  • Roof collapse
  • Icicles and ice dams
  • Gutter busting
  • Mold and condensation
  • Exaggerated damage

All are troublesome and can lead to even more damage and expense if not repaired correctly the first time.

Roof Collapse

Damaged house following Feb 22 quake | A badly damaged house… | Flickr

Probably the worst and most extreme case of snow damage is a collapsed roof. Every roofing contractor builds their roofs able to withstand a certain amount of weight. Different types of roofs have different weight limits. However, none of them 100 percent snow proof. One snowflake may seem innocent enough, but trillions of then gathering in one place can be a heavy burden for any home to bear. Especially if the structural integrity of the roof has already been compromised. The more pre-existing damage a roof has before winter, the more likely the event of a roof collapsing.

Icicles and Ice Dams

Another issue that rears its ugly head in the winter months is ice. More specifically, icicles and ice dams. Mainly an issue with slanted roofs, when the temperature is just right (around 34 degrees fahrenheit) the snow at the top of a roof will melt into water and trickle down until it hardens into ice. This ice can cause a slew of other troublesome conditions. One of which is deadly icicles. 

As the water freezes in the form of droplets at the outer edge of a roof, it slowly develops into an icicle. Though lovely to look at, these jagged pieces of ice have been known to fall and impale unsuspecting people. If icicles are forming on your roof, you should avoid standing directly beneath them and knock them down before they can cause any real damage. 

Another troublesome ice formation is a phenomenon known as an ice dam. This occurs when water trickles down from the top of a roof and freezes near the bottom before it reaches the outer edge. Ice dams shift as they get heavier, creating leaks and increasing the likelihood of a collapsed roof. You can combat this by installing heat tracers or regularly clearing off your roof to keep ice from forming.

Gutter Busting

As water leaks down into the gutters and begins to freeze it slips into the crevices. Since ice expands as it forms, the gutters tend to burst under the pressure. 

Condensation Buildup

As ice begins to shift and create leakage on a roof, water seeps in and creates condensation beneath it. The build up of condensation can lead to a number of other issues.

  • Mold
  • Wood rot
  • Structural damage

You should cover leaks as you find them, actively preventing these issues.

Exaggerated Damage

When you leave snow sitting on your roof, it may not look like a lot is happening beneath the surface. However, if the weight itself isn’t an issue and the snow begins to melt, any pre-existing damage will likely be exaggerated. Do you remember learning about a process called “weathering” in science class? Weathering is a phenomenon where mother nature shows her strength by silently wreaking havoc with simple elements like wind, water, or ice. 

The most aggressive type of weathering is caused by ice that forms from water that has seeped into the cracks of some unsuspecting rock- occasionally splitting them in half. Now imagine that same process taking place in the presence of roof damage or even improper roof repair. The smallest crack or loose shingle will act as an entry point for the water that will harden into thousands of dollars in roof damage.

Prevention and Repair

This kind of damage doesn’t just go away. It’s important to hire a knowledgeable roofing company to inspect your roof before and after the snowy season. Any damage left unrepaired will only get worse during the winter and the worse the damage, the more expensive the repair.

Related Posts