Everyone knows the winter weather can be harsh on your exterior, especially your roof. Fortunately, there are several ways to reduce the risk of frost or moisture damage when the ice begins to thaw. Read on to learn more about them.
Why Ice and Snow Are Problematic
The most important step in learning how to prevent (or at least minimize) moisture damage to your roof during the winter is understanding how it occurs in the first place. Here’s how ice and snow can cause damage to your roof:
- Added weight load – In small amounts, snow that falls on your roof is harmless. However, if enough snow builds up on your roof and in your gutters, the added weight might become too much for your system to handle, causing sections of the roof or gutters to collapse. That’s why you should have a professional gutter contractor inspect your roof before and after winter.
- Ice dams – Ice dams can either be caused by issues with your insulation or your gutters. Poor attic insulation means that warm air rising to your roof melts the snow on top, depositing ice at the roof’s edges, while leaky gutters cause water that should have flown to the drains away from your basement to exit through holes in your gutters instead. As the melted snow slides down your roof, it refreezes, depositing ice at the edges of your roof. If the ice dams become thick enough, they can cause melted snow to back up and slowly accumulate on top of your roof until it makes its way to your interior through any cracks and gaps in the exterior.
- Flooded basement and compromised foundation – Your gutter system protects your roof and foundation by diverting water away from them. However, if your gutters are clogged with snow or have any leaks, melted snow can find its way to your interior, slowly flooding your basement. The frigid temperature compounds the problem since the freeze-thaw cycle can widen any cracks in your walls or your home’s foundation.
How to Prevent Winter Roof Damage to Your RoofBefore Winter
- Have a gutter contractor inspect your roof and gutters for any leaks. It would also be a good idea to have a contractor check if there’s adequate insulation in your home. Building codes usually require households to have 12 to 14 inches of fiberglass or cellulose insulation. If the attic floor doesn’t have enough insulation, warm air can reach your attic through gaps in the insulation, melting the snow on top and causing ice dams to form
- Make sure your there’s adequate ventilation in your attic. Don’t forget that insulation always goes hand in hand with ventilation. There should be at least one square feet of vent per 300 square feet of ceiling area. The soffit vents located on the underside of your roof should also be free of any obstructions. Should warm air, which often holds lots of moisture, reach your attic, a proper ventilation system will help prevent moisture from accumulating there. Remember: A damp environment is the perfect breeding for mold, not to mention excess moisture can cause wood rot, which is why adequate ventilation is essential to preventing moisture damage.Quick Tip: If you haven’t replaced your gutter system in a while, consider replacing it with seamless gutters. Seams, the section where your gutters intersect, are the weakest part of the system. If too much debris, water or snow accumulates in your gutters, the seams might start to pull apart, causing leaks. Since seamless gutters don’t have these points, they’re not as vulnerable to damage arising from increased weight load. Here’s another tip: installing gutter protection systems can help improve seamless gutters’ resilience to winter damage.
- Clean your gutters. Your gutter system serves as your home’s first line of defense against moisture, so it’s important to keep your gutters clean at all times. If your gutters are clogged during winter, the water dripping out of clogged gutters can freeze into icicles and form ice dams eventually.Unfortunately, most homeowners just don’t have the time for this tedious yet essential task. One possible solution is to let a professional gutter cleaning company do the work for you. If, however, you’re on a tight budget, it might be more cost effective to install gutter covers, which help prevent leaves and other debris from entering your gutters, keeping them from clogging your downspouts.
Keep in mind that gutter covers can reduce but not fully eliminate the need to clean your gutters–unless you install Gutter Helmet®, the only gutter protection system on the market with a Never Clean Your Gutters Again® guarantee. Gutter Helmet is made to withstand harsh weather: its durable aluminum material and sturdy constrictions allows it to handle heavy snow and rainfall, while its Permalife™ finish resists fading from natural wear and tear as well as corrosion from saltwater and acid rain. To enjoy these benefits, make sure only a qualified gutter contractor handles the installation.
- Trim overhanging tree branches. Strong winds and heavy snow can knock off tree limbs, so it’s best to trim these branches before they fall onto your roof and cause damage.
- Check if ice is accumulating on your roof’s edges. If the build-up is getting thicker, you’ll need to have a professional carefully remove small icicles and ice dams off before they can damage your roof. Do not attempt to scrape off ice from the edges of roof yourself—you might chip away the surface of your shingles along with the ice and end up causing leaks. A more efficient way to prevent ice dams is to install an ice reduction system. The Helmet Heat® ice reduction system uses an exclusive heating cable to keep ice from building up around the edges of your roof. When installed alongside high-quality gutter covers, Helmet Heat can help protect your exterior from frost and moisture damage.
- Occasionally remove snow from your roof. The thickness of the snow and ice on your roof shouldn’t reach 70 cm or 5 cm respectively. If you plan on clearing the snow from your roof yourself, do not attempt to climb onto the roof. Use a roof rake with a telescopic handle instead. And remember: prioritize your safety always.Quick Tip: Leave a two-inch layer of snow on your roof to prevent the rake from scratching or dislodging your shingles.
- Avoid using salt or calcium chloride to melt the remaining snow. These chemicals can corrode metal, potentially shortening the lifespan of metal gutters, downspouts as well as the flashing on your roof. Not to mention the run-off can drip onto your lawn, causing damage there too.
- Keep an eye out for the warning signs of water damage. Signs of moisture damage include:
- Water stains and cracks on your wall
- Blistering paint or wallpaper
- Water droplets dripping down
- Hard-to-close doors
If you notice any of these signs, have a contractor inspect your roof and home as soon as possible.
- Schedule a roof inspection – Even after taking all the necessary precautions, there’s always a risk the freeze-thaw cycle caused cracks to form on your roof or in your gutters. To ensure your roof is damage free, hire a professional contractor to conduct a detailed inspection.
Only Hire Experienced Professionals
One more thing: Only qualified contractors should inspect your exterior and install gutter protection systems. Before hiring a contractor, make sure to do your research on their qualifications. Here’s a vetting tip: The amount of experience a contractor has in the industry gives you a good idea of their level of expertise.