Is it okay to install a new roof in the colder weather?

There are ideal times to install a roof, and some of them include cold weather scenarios. For the well prepared, installing a roof in cold weather is not an impossible task. You will face a lot of new scenarios during the process, but it’s nothing that will prevent you from completing the project. Pay close attention to the details of your install for the best results. If you run into any problems, take the time to go over this small guide for tips you may have missed. For first time installers, this may be a lot of information to take in. The sections help to break down the most relevant information, and should be more than enough to answer the most asked questions. Stay safe, and always follow common sense when working in the cold.

Signs Of A Good Roof

If there are no leaks in your roof, congratulations! That doesn’t guarantee it is in great condition, but it is a start. Roofing problems take on many forms, many of them unnoticeable. You could be under the illusion that you have a perfectly good roof when the reality is totally different. If your shingles are in good shape, then that is a great sign. Curling and buckling are some of the easiest things to spot on a bad roof. This could also be a sign that the life expectancy of the construction has long passed its due date.

Check your shingles to see if any are missing. Missing shingles can lead you to internal issues that you may have overlooked. A healthy roof has all of its shingles in place, even when the wind is blowing hard. When the eyeball test doesn’t do the trick, check the nearby gutters to see if they have collected any debris. The debris in the gutters should not be actual pieces of your roof. Once all of that checks out, you have a general idea of whether your roof is in good shape.

It goes without saying that all of this should be done in the daytime – in the evening, you can miss key elements due to shadows at a bad angle. Anytime you are unsure about the health of a roof, get professional help to keep from making early mistakes. Bad mistakes on a roof will cost you a ton just to roll back to previous changes. When making this change in cold weather, expect to pay a premium.

What Happens When The Weather Changes?

Peak seasons for a roofing contractor are a real thing in East Tennessee, or Nashville. When the weather starts to get cold, the health of your roof will affect your entire home. The short term and long-term effects of a bad roof during a cold weather change are easy to outline. Both situations will put you in a bad position and force either a cold weather roof installation or a miserable home environment.

For the short-term, roof leaks in the winter are not as devastating as they would be in the summer. This is when looking at the effects of mold and mildew, which become less likely to explode in cold weather. In summer, a leak could spell certain doom to specific areas of your home. This sounds like a good short-term pro, but it isn’t. Instead of mildew and mold, those leaks can become dangerous in-home hazards if it collects in one place. In cold weather where the temperature creates ice, you are looking at a problem that is sitting in wait until the weather warms up. Then that slow leak from the roof that has collected on the inside becomes a slow leak on the inside of your house that is harder to track. Without knowing that the origin is the roof, you will waste valuable time repairing the wrong problem.

Another short-term effect of a bad roof in cold weather is an increased energy bill. Your home will be much colder with a bad roof, so the hearing unit will be running at full power until the weather warms up. Depending on where you live, long stretches of cold weather can cost you thousands of dollars before the weather lets up. Some people compensate by buying portable heating units, but this is a Band-Aid on a much larger problem. And once you look at the difference in the bill, portable units are just as bad as the main heating unit.

Long-term effects of a bad roof in cold weather are harsh, and sometimes irreversible. Remember the tip about how short-term ice crystals can collect and cause internal damage in your home? Imagine the pressure of hundreds of those little crystals collecting on a bad roof. You are talking several pounds of ice sitting on top of a roof that is not in the best condition. Too much weight in one area for too long will make it likely that a portion of your roof collapses and leaves a giant hole. It would take an incredibly bad roof for this to happen, but freak accidents are not out of the realm of reality. There have even been incidents where the snow slides from the top of the roof and overwhelms the lower parts. Snow and ice crystals on the roof won’t go away on its own. A good roof is the best defense, and something that you can always depend on.

Another unintended long-term effect of a bad roof is the financial burden it causes in multiple areas. Repairing a bad roof in cold weather will hurt your wallet a lot more than an average roof. You are essentially turning coal into diamonds in one of the most dangerous work situations of the year. If the roof is already heavily damaged and the cold weather is particularly bad, then it is worse. There are some situations where even an emergency is out of the hands of a professional. The conditions get to the point where it is so dangerous, that waiting is the only option. If your roof is in at least modest condition, then your situation may change. Imagine having to foot a hotel and insurance bill during one of the coldest seasons of the year. Avoiding this scenario by having a decent roof seems like the least any homeowner should do.

Cold Weather And A Subpar Roof

Making repairs on a subpar roof in cold weather is a situation you don’t want to be in. Many put repairs on the backburner until a later season for multiple reasons. Whether it is for money or design reasons, putting repairs off is usually the wrong plan.

Cold weather invites a lot of unwelcome guests on a subpar roof. Birds nesting on a subpar roof is not a nightmare scenario, but can be if you plan to do the repairs on your own. During the cold season, birds will nest on the roof with their young to keep warm. The protectiveness of birds to their young is not a joking matter, and they may give you some considerable resistance. A single human being bested by a protective mother bird is a common sight. The same thing happens when encountering a beehive or a wasp’s nest. When it is cold outside, birds and insects stay home and are willing to protect it with their lives. Be prepared to deal with these obstacles on a subpar roof in cold weather.

Things get particularly difficult when that subpar roof has holes in it. When there is a hole in your roof that allows rodents to get into the attic, cold weather brings in a lot of unwelcome rodents. Small rodents of all kinds can make a home in your attic via the same roof you neglected to repair during the warmer months. The problem with this situation (just like with the birds) is that they play house in groups, not singles. The amount of effort it takes to get rid of rodents in your attic is considerably more difficult than dealing with birds on a roof. They will continue attempts to go back to their home even after you evict them. It would be a waste of money to be forced into paying for pest control before starting a new installation on your roof.

Remember, during the cold parts of the year, your home becomes the home of everyone. Keep them out by making sure your roof is in top condition before it gets cold. Evicting anyone is always more expensive than keeping them out in the first place.

The Color Of Your Roof Matters

This is one of the oldest arguments in history when it comes to a roofing system. This has nothing to do with the actual design, but points to the physical benefits of having specific colors. It sounds crazy at first, but there are plenty of facts to prove that darker roofs attract heat while lighter roofs bring in cold.

A dark roof absorbs heat, which is something you’ll notice in the summer. It will be noticeably hotter during the hot months of the year. The result of the extra heat means cranking up you’re a/c and burning through extra cash on the electricity bill. A lighter roof will reflect the suns rays away and make it less like a toaster in summer. All of this sounds good, but completely changes your project focus if you’re doing an install for the cold months.

Let’s say you are reinforcing your roof for the colder months. It would make more sense to go with a darker roof since it brings in heat and retains it longer. Homes that tend to take forever to heat up will see a major boost by going with a darker roof. Your heating system will have to work less, and you will save more money over the winter months. Another added benefit is that a darker roof makes it easier to remove snow. You can work less since the snow and ice won’t be as stubborn to deal with.

Look at where you live and determine whether it would be beneficial to have a dark roof or a light roof. If there are more colder months than warmer ones, it makes sense to have a dark roof. There are pros to this color if your home is built in a cold climate. Take a look at what moderate climates prefer, and you will see a lot of favoritism towards specific designs and colors.

Sloped, Flat And Metal Roofs In The Winter

There is a difference between the three when considering winter installs. The idea of repairing or upgrading a roof in the winter already has its own set of issues, but this is a minor one. When the temperature drops to a certain point, metal, flat and sloped roofs behave differently. Once again, depending on your year-round temperatures, one may be advantageous over the another.

Flat roofs can be installed as either thermoplastic olefin or polyvinyl chloride in the winter. These two systems use hot air welding instead of adhesives, so fair much better for cold installs. By sticking with these two systems, your chances of a successful repair or upgrade increases greatly. The risks are too great when considering other flat roof systems in cold weather. Regular adhesives and peel and stick materials will have trouble bonding correctly. Potential warranty issues due to damage caused by this incorrect install is problematic, and best avoided altogether.

Sloped roofs are more straightforward with their material type, so asphalt can be used in the cold months. There is considerable difficulty following through with a sloped roof project in the winter if you’re not a professional. By doing the project yourself, you run the risk of cracking or bending the shingles. Getting the bond right the first time is hard to do without extra research, and can lead to some really sloppy work. The true strength of the asphalt system comes when it is allowed to bond properly in warm weather. When you install a sloped roofing system wrong, large ice formations called ice dams may appear until the project is corrected. In short, sloped installs in the winter should be left to experienced users or professionals.

The easiest of all the roofs to deal with during cold weather is metal. Improper handling or cracking is not a concern, and the cold weather doesn’t force a tricky install. If ventilation is giving priority during a metal roof install, the results are usually fantastic. In harsh winter environments, a metal roof will be your best friend. Keep the design simple and tight and it will be one of the best upgrades you ever make to a home.

Will The Material Hold Up?

A metal roof speaks for itself with a great track record and plenty of satisfied customers. Their popularity comes from a durable foundation and optional additions to combat winter months. But it is not the only star when it comes to winter materials. Even if metal roofing is in a special category of its own, there are plenty of other choices that pull their weight.

Do you currently use solar panels? One of the questions asked is how well they perform when it isn’t sunny outside. Normally, an active solar panel will suck in solar energy and use it to power your home during the summer months. This energy can be converted in many ways, usually as electricity or heat. You can warm up an entire home with active panels without having to turn up the heating system of a home. During the winter months, passive solar panels take in hot air and work to melt snow and ice off of the roof. This process is important not only for the roof, but the entire panel system. There are different versions of active and passive panels, and it is worth exploring each one.

Composite shingles and slate are heavy, traditional and always worth the money. They can handle a lot of weight, and are beneficial in hot or cold weather. Durability is the key to these two types of materials, and is the main reason they come highly recommended. They keep heat inside the home so that the heating system doesn’t have to overwork. Out of all the materials mentioned, composite shingles and slate are a perfect balance – that includes the pricing structure. To get the most out of these materials, it is recommended to install them before the cold months. It is not mandatory, but it does help their effectiveness.

Asphalt shingles are one of the more common materials found on roofs in North America. They are low priced, easy to install and do a nice job in the winter. If you like asphalt material, consider using cedar wood shingles instead. They hold up better in cold weather and hold a similar price point. With either selection, you are getting a good deal for the long-term.

Cement tiles are more favored for being fireproof than having good cold weather protection. That doesn’t mean they don’t work well for cold weather, it is just a more expensive way to go about it. Cement tiles are heavy, and requires a strong foundation to stay in place. This is a good material for certain projects, but not all.

Technology Changes A Few Things

Developing technologies are available to the consumer market that may change your roof preferences. Instead of harvesting the rays from the sun and turning it into energy, some homes get materials to reflect those rays. Cool roofs are gaining traction as a popular choice for homes during the summer. They are a cost-effective way to keep a home cool during the summer, but may cause problems during the winter time. Changing the reflective and emissive qualities of a roof is a technology not yet available, so a cool roof is usually a bad choice for areas dominated by cold weather.

Things get complicated when the months are split between cold and hot weather. And it gets even more complicated when a place that was predominately hot begins to experience a shift towards more cold months. All of these situations are a perfect time to consider a roof upgrade, especially if you’re in a cold climate. A cool roof is wasted in that situation, and can be upgraded into something more beneficial for the home. You would also want the advantage of the roof being able to melt the snow in a natural and safe way. There are plenty of choices that allow that without hitting your wallet too hard for an upgrade.

Look at the current yearly weather for an area to see if it has changed over the years. You may not realize that the shift has happened while you’re still using incompatible technology.

Using Good Construction To Your Advantage

Upgrading or repairing a roof in the winter is not a hard job when the original roof is in decent condition. It was touched on before, but a good roof makes all the difference in the world. A good roof makes the difference in cost, project time and possible hazards. Here is a breakdown of how each could affect your winter changes.

Hazards during the winter are usually related to snow and ice that collects on the roof. If you have a decent roof installed, it becomes child’s play to remove the extra snow from the area. It is a bad idea to struggle and remove snow from a slippery roof in the middle of winter. On a bad roof, ice, snow and other debris can get stuck in place and become problematic to remove.

Project time is an underrated thing to consider. Imagine your local weather forecast telling you snow will get worse long before it gets better. Now imagine being forced to install or upgrade a bad roof for over a week due to its condition. These things are avoided by having a roof in decent enough shape. Instead of a week, you can spend a few days getting things in order. A significantly cut project time prevents you from working in conditions that continue to get dangerous.

It’s common sense that upgrading or repairing a bad roof will always cost more than a good roof. Problems that you didn’t expect can expand those costs even further. When it gets outside of your budget, the decision time becomes very difficult. Stay away from having to make a snap decision by keeping your original roof in decent shape. Instead of paying for multiple problems you are locked into a more sensible spending option.

Tips For Cold Weather Roofing

The most obvious tip is to handle projects long before it gets cold! When that option isn’t available, use the tips below to make it easier on everyone involved.

  • Take extra safety precautions – Getting the job done quick is not important if someone gets hurt. Even in a normal environment, roof work can be dangerous. Understand the risk, and always prepare yourself long before setting up a ladder. Before you step foot on a roof, you should have a fully functioning plan in your head
  • Don’t cut corners – Cutting corners may work for other projects, but on a roof, it can lead to irreparable damage. If you don’t understand certain instructions, don’t wing it. What may seem like a small deal now will turn into a big deal later. Cold weather work uses completely different methods than warm weather work. Make note of the changes and don’t play the guessing game
  • Give yourself time – This has more to do with realistic expectations. For homeowners doing their own roof work, there should always be a respectable time given for project completion. Cold weather delays are common, so going over the project length is not a big deal. You set the deadline, and there is nothing wrong with changing it. Likewise, practice patience with professionals that are working in cold weather. The conditions may look decent from the house, but on the roof, it is a completely different story
  • Pay close attention to mother nature – If you see a nest, that means the mother isn’t far away. If you see a hive and hear buzzing, back away. Your footing is less secure on a roof, so getting into a fight is a bad idea

When Is It Too Cold?

This is a difficult question to answer if it applies to the average homeowner. Different skillsets can handle more than others. The easy answer is obvious, and that is during a snowstorm. No one should work on the roof in a snowstorm, or any storm. That doesn’t mean that the weatherman has to actually say that it is a snowstorm or a blizzard. You should be able to gauge when the weather has hit a level that makes it extremely dangerous to be on top of the house.

Extremely cold weather brings a lot of new challenges, starting with snow and ice. If they continue to show up on your roof faster than you can remove it, then it is a bad idea to continue working. That means the weather has become a deterrent to finishing the project. There may be an opening later on when it warms up, but at that point you should shelve the project.

When the wind chill is so bad that your fingers freeze through your gloves, it is too cold. Gusts of wind can blow small pieces of ice into your eyes. Momentary blindness is a bad thing to have on top of a roof with tools. But the biggest takeaway from this is your effectiveness as a worker – your body is screaming for warmth and not cooperating with what your mind wants to do. It is an ineffective way to handle a project that requires focus and precision.

But you definitely know it is too cold when the bonding materials you chose don’t match up with the weather type. Some bonding materials will not cooperate with extremely cold weather. Choosing to move forward with a bond that may (or may not) hold your roof together is just asking for trouble.

Installation Troubles

Icicles and ice dams are common problems faced in winter. When they form on a roof, you can expect that later on it will cause some serious structural damage to your home. Ice dams in particular are almost a beacon for you to follow that shows below average construction areas of a home. Pay close attention to where they form and make notes if you plan on improving your roof. Icicles are a little bit different and more of an external hazard as they melt. An icicle that falls can kill or injure people and pets. Icicles that get big in size are heavy and will damage parts of your home or roof. Deal with them early before they become a bigger problem than expected.

Getting the wrong materials for a project is something that everyone goes through. Even professionals will have that rare moment where they need to change out a material or tool to get the job done. Recognizing a mistake and correcting it is the right way to handle a project on your roof. Moving forward with incorrect tools, materials or instructions is a guaranteed hazard. Sometimes hitting the reset button gives you all of the time needed to make things right.

Underestimating damage is a common installation problem, especially when it is related to water damage. Cold weather water damage can be just as devastating as the summer months. Try to do your best when it comes to noticing damage on the roof and its surrounding areas. Making a big deal out of a small problem on the roof is better than missing it entirely.

The Benefits Are Right In Front Of You

Although not ideal, roof work done in the winter is still a good idea. If not now, then when?

You’re saving a ton of money during the winter months by getting it done. Less heat will need to be used, and that can be a big deal if power goes out during the winter. Your home will stay warm longer from natural heat instead of relying on power. Depending on your location, you may find that professional labor is cheaper during the colder months. Workers like the cool weather instead of working in a heatwave!

Scheduling a roofing contractor in the cold months is a lot more open. You may find a good company has more openings during winter than summer. This is common, and has to do with customer demands during the season. Winter in general is considered slow for roof work, but that does not mean that they shut down. There is even a good chance you’ll find the deal of a lifetime by waiting for winter work. Home owners that have very specific needs for their roof should consider a winter job since the workers are more flexible.

Homes that are on the market can schedule roof work to be done in winter to counteract any future internal problems with the home. It would be a nightmare scenario to have a harsh winter wipe out a home’s value due to a bad roof. The alternative is to have the work done during the warmer months, which is an eyesore for potential buyers. Winter provides the perfect schedule for homes that need to sell at a later date.

Managing Expectations

On the consumer side, winter work is always a risk. Projects that were perfectly formed from start to finish can still hit snags. It can be a gut check to dump thousands into a roof repair and end up with nothing. There is a cost and health risk when doing the work yourself, so keep that in mind before starting. Easy roof work doesn’t exist, and you’re either all in or not in at all. To keep from overburdening yourself, walk outside and do a cost assessment. Is it within your budget? Be realistic with the current shape of your roof, and what you expect to get done in cold weather. On top of the materials and tools you need to get the roof done, you also have to budget for personal gear. Climbing a roof in cold weather with a pair of jeans and a t-shirt is probably not a good idea. This becomes even more apparent when ice and snow are involved. Your cost assessment should have a realistic time expectation. Factor in weather forecasts to see if it is even possible in your current timeframe. With all of that information, you should have a general idea of whether the project is within your scope of skills.

On the professional side, expect the company and workers to honor their contract. But this also comes with its own set of realistic expectations. Asking workers to continue a project in dangerous conditions will not put you in a positive light. There are sacrifices to be made on both sides, and you have to realize when weather becomes an actual concern. There are also roofs in such bad condition that workers can’t deal with it in the cold months. It makes no sense to get upset with a company that lacks the flexibility you need to get a job done if the roof is the main cause. Companies and workers want to work, get paid and go home. Be reasonable as a consumer, and they will honor their contract to the best of their abilities.

Prepare Before It Gets Cold

At this point you have heard all of the ways to deal with cold weather roof installs. But what about preparing before winter?

In a perfect scenario, you would get roof work done in the summer. In a worst-case scenario, you can’t get winter roof work done in the winter, and have to wait for the summer. This leaves you open to potential internal and external problems with your home due to a bad roof. Instead of using the all in option, play it safe.

When a company doesn’t have the time or manpower to replace your roof in the winter, see if they can do a repair job. A repair will put you in a good position during winter to fight off any potential damage. Do the math – if something catastrophic happens to your home in the winter, then it is more money out of pocket anyway. You are saving money by getting minor work done now in preparation for the major work during the summer. Don’t become a penny pincher during the winter if you have a bad roof.

If you plan on doing the work without the help of a professional, then the same tip applies. Set up a project during the winter for minor patchwork. Don’t go overboard with the work, keep it simple, and prepare for a full summer renovation. The time between the winter and summer repair should give you plenty of time to outline a cost friendly project for your roof.

Keep A Helping Hand Nearby

Having someone watch your back is a good idea for any roof work. Just a simple pair of eyes will do, no experience necessary. In the winter months, the chances of falling off of the roof becomes a higher possibility. The last thing you want is to fall and not be able to get any help for hours. An extra set of eyes can also point and call out to you from a different viewpoint. There are a lot of things they can spot that you can easily miss. At the very least, having someone to hold the ladder is an absolute minimum for this project.

Another reason to keep a helping hand around is for personal reasons. If you suffer from arthritis or knee problems, certain movements become a true strain in cold weather. The best way to annoy an arthritis sufferer is to hit them with a dose of cold weather. That doesn’t make the sufferer incapable, it just makes certain movements more of a pain. Having a helping hand can ease some of that pain and make a few tedious tasks more bearable. Joint pain can turn into something more sinister when you’re too proud to say something. Prepare mentally and physically for a roof task before fully committing to it in the winter.

Vertigo needs to be mentioned, and can happen at any time. Inner ear infections, certain medications and just plain human wonkiness can cause vertigo. Without someone up there with you, it becomes a nightmare scenario that you have to deal with alone.

There is no con to having a helper work on the roof with you, even if they have no experience. Coach them up on safety measures and make sure the lesson fits. They don’t know it, but they are helping you out more than they know.

Wrap Up

Your preparation will determine just how difficult a cold weather project will be. A roofing system in regular weather can be challenging work, so a cold weather install will add even more of challenge. There are no shortcuts to getting this done, and working too quickly will cause a lot of problems. Don’t forget to mention this blog and get $100 off! Saving money is always a good way to start a project in East Tennessee, Nashville or wherever you call home.

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