During the winter months, your home’s roof can suffer much wear and tear from snow and ice accumulation. Luckily, there are several seasonal roof maintenance tasks you can complete to better guard against the roof problems that snow and ice cause. Some of this roof maintenance can be performed by handy homeowners themselves, but most of it should be done by professional home roofing experts.
Today’s blog post reviews just how damaging freezing and snowy weather can be to your roof. We’ll also review a few practical items for better roof maintenance. You can add these to your to-do list, which will help protect your roof in winter.
The Biggest Ways Snow and Ice Can Damage Your Roof
Accumulated snow and ice on your roof can be extremely heavy. As a result, this can lead to some of the most critical roof problems homeowners can possibly face. However, there are also other snow and ice-related risks to consider, including ice dams and even normal temperature fluctuations between freezing and thaw.
Ice and Snow Buildup Adds Dangerous Extra Weight
The most severe risk that snow or ice buildup poses is a partial or complete roof cave-in due to its accumulated weight.
When temperatures go below freezing, any moisture on your roof will naturally turn into ice. This ice—combined with any snowfall that occurs on top of it—weighs a lot. One inch of snow, which has a weight of about 1.66 pounds per square foot, doesn’t add much pressure. But consider this: two feet of snow—especially wet snow or snow over ice accumulation—can add 19 tons of weight to your roof!
Additionally, ice accumulating on large tree limbs overhanging your roof can often cause breakage of those limbs or branches. When this debris falls onto your roof, it creates what’s known as “impact damage.” This type of damage may be as minor as cracked slate roofing or loosened shingles, or as severe as a partial roof collapse.
Ice Dams Damage Roof Edges and Gutters
Ice accumulation on your roof is often called an “ice dam.” Ice dams can easily occur when layers of ice form around the drains or at the edge of the roof. They block the melting snow and keep it from properly draining off the roof. If you notice the formation of a lot of large icicles, you likely have an ice dam built up behind them.
Ice dams not only add an extra load of dangerous weight to the roof, but they can also rip down your gutters and downspouts. They also tend to “back up” under shingles or other roof coverings and cause leaks into your home’s interior.
The Freeze-Thaw Cycle Makes Small Problems Worse
When water freezes—and then inevitably later thaws—it tends to expand any small cracks that might be in your roof. With just a little heat, a crack will grow to accumulate more water, which then freezes again, causing the small fissure to expand even wider. This freeze-thaw cycle, which can sometimes happen multiple times in a 24-hour period during our Central PA winters, is the culprit behind many leaks and roof repair needs.
What You Can Do to Protect Your Roof
As we’ve shown, snow and ice can attack your roof from multiple angles—existing cracks and damage can expand just as reinforcements weaken under heavy snow loads. However, having a good year-round roof maintenance plan in place can save you from winter hassles.
Performing a thorough roof check at least twice a year is a great place to start, though there are also a few things you can do after winter has set in to manage ice and snow as you go.
Top Pre-Season Roof Maintenance To-Dos
These are a few tips for making sure your roof is ready to handle winter before the season gets underway.
Clean Your Gutters
Keeping all gutters, downspouts, and roof drains free of debris goes a long way toward preventing ice dams. Ideally, you should clean your gutters a few times per year, but ensuring you unclog them at the end of the fall season is perhaps most important. Fallen leaves, acorns, pine needles, and the like collect in open gutters and can back up downspouts, as well.
Check for and Fix Damaged Shingles
Strong summer and fall storms can wreak having on roof systems of all types. But in particular, the asphalt shingles that are standard on most residential roofs here in our home service area of Central PA are vulnerable to high wind and hail. If you see that your roof is missing shingles, or you’ve experienced other roof problems from storm damage, these issues need to be fixed before there’s snow in the forecast.
Trim Overhanging Tree Limbs
As we already touched on, trees around your home can easily damage your roof when storms or heavy ice and snow cause limbs to break and fall. Before winter, it’s a good idea to take the time to trim any tree branches that are overhanging your roof. If you don’t feel that you can accomplish this chore yourself, you may want to hire an arborist or tree care expert to help.
Install Better Insulation in Your Attic
In addition to making sure your home’s gutters are free from clogs, one of the best ways to prevent ice dams from forming on your roof in the winter is to add insulation underneath your roof’s surface. Better insulation cuts down your home’s heat loss and makes temperatures on your roof’s surface more uniform. This helps snow and ice to melt away more efficiently and effectively.
Top Winter Roof Maintenance To-Dos for Snow and Ice Management
If you didn’t get a chance to work on roof maintenance chores before the start of winter, don’t worry—there are some actions you can take when a snowstorm or cold snap is already on the way.
Apply a Roof Salt Ice Melt Product
There are a multitude of ice melt products on the market to help you keep driveways and other hard surfaces clear. Some of these products are now specially formulated to safely work on roofing materials, as well. If you’ve noticed that an ice dam is forming on your roof, you can spread these roof melt products on top of the ice—generally in temperatures down to the negative teens or 20s—and the ice will begin to thaw. Note that these products are NOT a long-term solution.
Use a Specialized Roof Rake to Remove Accumulated Snow
Sometimes, even if you have carefully maintained your roof in the lead-up to winter, an unusually heavy snowfall might call for some manual removal efforts to reduce the strain on your roof’s underlying structure. This is where roof rakes come into play. These long-reach tools can help you brush the snow from your roof without climbing a ladder.
Call an Experienced Roofing Contractor for Help with Ice Dams
While you can apply some roof salt ice melt to an ice dam as a quick fix, we recommend that homeowners call in a roofing professional to help break up particularly large ice dams before they can cause damage. Of course, if you’ve got damage and leaks already in progress, you can simply call us!
Need Roof Repair in Central PA? Biniek Can Help!
If your home’s roof is older and needs repair or replacement to prevent damage from winter weather, or if your roof has been damaged by ice or snow already this season, it’s time to contact the experts at Biniek Specialty Contractors for help.
Give us a call or contact us online today for a fast and friendly quote!
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Biniek Specialty Contractors provides the highest quality roofing and exterior services available in the Central Pennsylvania area including Harrisburg, Mechanicsburg, Carlisle and Shippensburg.