Pros and Cons of Winter Roofing

Winter tends to be a particularly difficult season on our roofs. Even in balmier areas that don’t get drifts of ice and snow, the rains and winds can damage or peel off shingles and let the water pour in.

In addition, the wetter months are the time when we finally discover any damage that may have occurred during the summer. Unfortunately, we often discover the damage just in time for an emergency repair.

Although most damage to our roofs occurs in the winter, most roof repairs and replacements happen in the summer. This lag can lead to a great deal of water damage, mold growth, and structural damage to our homes. Are there reasons to think about getting roof work in the winter?

The truth is that there are pros and cons to getting a roof replaced in the winter. Knowing about these advantages and disadvantages as well as the most common sources of winter damage will help you to decide whether a new roof is in the cards for you this winter.

Most Common Sources of Winter Damage

Why is winter so hard on our roofs and our homes? There are several factors that contribute. First, there is more precipitation than normal, which can lead to water damage when there are existing leaks. Second, there are wider fluctuations in weather, which can lead to increased stress on the materials that keep your roof strong. Last, there tends to be more wind. Wind can be damaging in itself but also can propel heavy things into your roof that do their own damage. As Tennessee experts in roofs, we see a lot of the following issues.

1. Flashing Leakage

Flashing, or the strips of metal placed around the edges and other vulnerable parts of your roof, are there to protect areas with high potential for leaks. However, there are times when they begin to pull away and stop protect your roof and your home. Wear and tear or simply being installed incorrectly make your flashing more likely to leak. In addition, heavy rains, high winds, and other violent storms can tear them out of their place.

There is usually no sign of a flashing leak until the water damage becomes obvious. As a result, most experts in roof installation and repair recommend that you have your flashing expected every six months, particularly if your roof has been exposed to severe weather.

2. Condensation

I can already hear your thoughts: “Wait. Aren’t roofs supposed to handle water? How can a little condensation hurt them?” Although it doesn’t make immediate sense to many people, condensation is one of the biggest sources of roof-related damage to your house.

The problem with condensation occurs when the condensation is on the underside, or house-side, of the roof. When the warm air from your home meets the cold underside of your roof, condensation forms. Over time, mildew and mold can follow it, eating away at your roof from the inside. Experts estimate that condensation can take as much as half of your roof’s lifespan if left unchecked. It also can do a great deal of damage to your home, including structural damage that can be very expensive to correct.

3. High wind

High wind does not happen every day in our area, but it happens at least a few times a year. High wind can take off shingles, flashing, and other protective elements from your roof. It also provides enough force to bring your roof into contact with tree limbs and other damaging items. Wind is one of the most common winter causes of leaks and other water damage. If you see shingles on the ground – even if they belong to the neighbor – it is time to call a roofer to get an inspection.

4. Tree Limbs and Airborne Vegetation

We live in a beautiful area with ample scenery, but this comes at a price to our homes. The trees hanging over and surrounding our homes may add to our home value and give the neighborhood character, but they also scrape against the siding and roof to create a great deal of damage over time. In addition, limbs that fall onto our roofs (or are propelled into them at a high speed, such as in the case of a storm) can tear up even the best roof in just a single night.

A new roof has a better chance of withstanding tree limbs because it has not been exposed to them for as long of a time period. However, it is still important to keep your trees trimmed at least six feet away from your roof whenever possible. While this will not help you with airborne debris, it will cut back on the daily scraping that can do so much long-term damage.

5. Ice

We may not be as cold as Alaska, but Tennessee has the occasional freeze and years with more ice than others. Unfortunately, even a single night of ice can be damaging to your roof – especially in areas where our homes and roofs are not always made to deal with the dangers of ice. The main danger is the expanding and contracting that occurs with freezing and thawing. This can cause cracks and other damage to the materials that make up your roof.

In addition, some less reputable roofers use adhesives and sealants that fall short in cold weather. You may find out in the middle of a cold snap that your roof is not as sturdy as you were led to believe while the sun was shining.

Ice also can have a cumulative damaging effect. Your roof can develop ice dams or icicles if you get several alternating freezing nights and sunny days. While there are specialized materials that can help to keep a roof from being damaged by ice, many homes in our area simply don’t have these.

6. Split seams

Seams are the areas where different parts of your roof come together. These are made to remain stable even with wide temperature fluctuations. However, as your roof ages, they become weak points that are often the first place to fall apart when your roof is put under stress. This stress could be weight from water or ice, high winds, or even simple strain on materials from expansion and contraction in weather changes.

A split in a seam can be small or huge. However, it is sure to lead to leakage and can rapidly worsen as the cold weather wears on. This simple issue can lead to disaster if it is not identified and repaired promptly. It is generally cheaper to replace an old roof before this happens rather than trying to eke through another winter.

One of the best ways to deal with the scourges of foul weather is to stay on top of it. Check gutters after every storm and check your attic for leaks. This will help you to identify many problems before they become complete disasters, although it will not guarantee that you never need a repair.

Is Now the Time for a New Roof?

So what is a homeowner to do if they have any of these issues? In some cases, a roof specialist will be able to fix the damage. In other cases, an entirely new roof may actually be the most economical option. Either way, it is important to call a specialist as soon as you notice damage to your roof.

Although most people in Knoxville, Nashville, and Chattanooga schedule inspection and roof replacement for the summer, there are good reasons to look for a roofing contractor right now. Consider the following pros and cons to decide if winter roof repair and replacement is the right choice for you and your home. This will help you to decide if a new roof is in the cards for your home over the next few months.

Pros of Winter Roof Replacement and Repair

Summer is definitely the traditional time to have your roof inspected, repaired, and replaced. It is warm, balmy, and a roof is not even really needed except to keep the air conditioning inside. Despite these clear advantages, there are several great reasons to get major roof work done in the cold weather months. Consider the following advantages.

1. Waiting for summer may cause more damage.

Many problems with a roof do not become apparent until the winter months. Suddenly you discover a new area of mold and mildew or even an unplanned indoor waterfall. At other times, a winter storm may cause damage that leaves your roof so torn up that you might as well replace it.

If you have any of the signs discussed above or even less obvious signs of damage to the roof like cracked and curling shingles, you should consider calling a roofing contractor now. Although it may sound like a great deal of inconvenience to have your roof replaced in the winter, it is better than replacing a large portion of your house later on.

If this seems hyperbolic, think for a second about the average Tennessee winter. If this winter is like any other winter in our area, your roof is going to be exposed to a great deal of water as well as almost daily fluctuations in temperature that can expose leaks and make them worse. If even a small portion of this water makes it inside, it can warp your roof, destroy your walls, and cause mold problems that can cost thousands (or tens of thousands) to rectify.

You do not have to get a full roof replacement, by the way. It is not an all or nothing proposition. If you decide against a new roof this winter, call a contractor and ask about smaller projects that can help protect your home against damage until warmer weather arrives.

2. A new roof will protect your home and your investments.

Ultimately, a high quality roof is the only way to protect the investment that is your home. Most people put a great deal of their money and time into their homes because they know it is not just a place to live, but an investment in the future. Given that homes are so expensive and take up so many of our resources, it makes sense to put extra effort into protecting it from the elements.

A roof that is close to the end of its lifespan is more likely to go out in a blaze (or more appropriately, a torrent) of glory in the next weather event. This can leave your family and your home exposed to the elements for the hours or days that it takes to get a contractor out to repair the damage. This damage can lead to additional thousands or even tens of thousands in damage for the average home as well as a great deal of inconvenience for residents displaced without notice. No one wants to spend their holiday season worrying about something so devastating.

Rather than worrying every time the wind picks up, consider getting your roof replaced now. There is no reason to spend that much energy wondering what will happen when you are already going to spend that money sooner or later. If you need a new roof, call a contractor today and get it replaced before any damage has occurred.

3. A new roof offers better defense against ice and snow.

Although rain and wind can be destructive to homes and their roofs, snow and ice are even greater generators of damage. Because these are not as common in our area, many roofs are simply not made to withstand this type of stress. In addition, many homeowners do not understand how to inspect a roof for the damage that these elements so often bring.

How much snow and ice does it take to create damage? Obviously huge amounts of snow and deep freezes are worse than milder conditions but even a small amount can do a great deal of damage. Even worse is when it freezes overnight and then thaws during the day repeatedly, as this rapidly expands and contracts shingles and other parts of the roof.

The advantage of getting a new roof in winter is that you can look into materials that are specifically made to withstand wet and cold conditions and discuss these with your contractor. Although these are available in the summer, many people do not think to ask about them until the days become shorter and temperatures fall. With the temperatures falling outside, the question will be fresh on your mind.

Even if your roof has been holding up well until now, there are certain snow and ice conditions that are almost guaranteed to cause damage or even to cause your roof to collapse – even if it is a fairly new one. These include:

  • Ice dams, in which ice forms a lip or dam that can hold water on your roof where it adds unnecessary weight and eventually finds a way to leak through
  • Four feet of fresh snow
  • Two or more feet of old snow, as old snow tends to be heavier, dirtier, and more compact than fresh snow
  • More than four inches of accumulated ice, as ice is actually incredibly heavy and will make roof shingles more brittle and susceptible to damage

If these conditions occur, the obvious pro of calling an expert in roof repair is that they can help to ensure that your roof and home will remain intact.

But why not do it yourself? Keep in mind that we are talking about icy conditions, often with precipitation and rain to be mitigated. It is important in these conditions to call in an expert because climbing a ladder and walking on the roof can be dangerous in icy conditions. We have the equipment and experience needed to navigate an icy ladder and even icier roof.

4. Winter often offers better pricing for routine work.

As you have likely noticed, summer is the time when most people decide to get their roof replaced. As a result, many contractors offer better rates for routine work in the cooler months.

A great deal of the price of home repairs depends on demand. Winter emergency work is very expensive not because of the weather but because workers must be paid overtime to deal with all of the calls. However, routine work actually tends to be cheaper in winter because there are fewer customers getting work done at this time of year.

If you ultimately decide not to get your roof repair or replacement done in the winter, consider calling for an estimate in the late winter or very early spring. Once the days get longer, most contractors have long waiting lists and higher prices to compensate our workers for the longer days and potential heat exhaustion.

5. Contractor availability increases in cold weather.

It can be difficult to find a high quality contractor once the weather heats up. Everyone and their neighbor is trying to get their roof fixed or replaced as spring wears on and summer approaches. Then, there is a huge rush of customers to compete with in the fall as people realize that winter is truly coming.

However, once the first frost hits, the calls often calm down. After all, who gets their roof replaced in the winter? It is a little known secret that getting your roof replaced in the cold weather can actually be a better and cheaper decision, so you will be ahead of the trend.

As a result, you can finally schedule that popular contractor that has been booked for nine straight months prior to November. If you have been trying to get on the schedule of a particular roofer, rest assured that they are often twiddling their thumbs when December and January come around. In addition, scheduling in the winter means less of a wait. Customers can finally get the immediate gratification that they seek yet rarely find from roofers.

Even if you are insistent that your roof be replaced in the summer, winter remains the best time to get an estimate. Summer schedules begin filling up quickly in the spring. Making plans as early as possible ensures that you will get the work you need at the best price and at a time that is most convenient for you. If you wait until sunny skies appear, the contractor you prefer may just be booked through next winter.

6. Getting a winter roof job will lower your heating bill.

Heat rises, which makes heating a home with a decrepit roof extremely challenging. Your hot air and ultimately your hard-earned money escape through the roof as quickly as you and your furnace can produce them. Many people do not realize that they are paying much more for heating than they would with a proper roof.

Because so much heat escapes through your roof, getting a roof repair or replacement in the winter can lead to sudden and noticeable changes in your heating bill. It may not pay entirely for your new roof, but it will safe a hefty chunk of change added back to your monthly budget. If you are considering whether to get a roof replaced either now or in the future, it is important to consider that there are many benefits of doing it now.

In addition, winter roof work can lead to your home being warmer and having less dampness, leading to more comfort to be shared. Cold and moisture that were coming in from the roof are no longer there to mess with your warmth or your thermostat. Many of our customers report that their drafts have gone away since their new roof was installed, leaving a uniformly cozy and warm home to be enjoyed throughout the holidays and the rest of the cold weather months.

7. Be ready for spring rains and summer storms.

Although we as a culture tend to think of winter as a time of poor weather, spring and summer are not much better in our area. Spring brings torrential rains at times, while summer has a mixture of endless humidity and violent storms. Instead of asking whether a roof is ready for winter, perhaps we should be asking if it is ready for summer. After all, that is often when the shingles fly.

Because weather is unpredictable, installing a roof in the summer often has similar considerations to installing it in the winter. The temperature may be out of ideal range, rising above 85 degrees every day. In addition, workers are uncomfortable due to the elements, especially as thermometer readings climb closer to the three digits. Last, the threat of bad weather is always threatening to throw the whole project off schedule. Despite these considerations, it is important to repair your roof as needed regardless of the season.

When to Get Emergency Help

Many people will read these pros and still not be interested in a winter roof job. That is fine. However, there are a few signs that you are having a true emergency and need to call a roof expert immediately regardless of the weather. If you notice the following, get emergency roof advice:

  • Sagging in your roof or eaves
  • Loud noises such as cracking, popping, or creaking coming from your attic or roof
  • Cracks in walls
  • Ceilings that appear to be sagging or leaning
  • Noticeable water entering the house, such as the appearance of wet spots on the ceiling or the appearance of new leaks
  • Doors popping open after being securely closed
  • Doors and windows becoming difficult or impossible to open and/or close

These are all signs that your roof has become extremely strained and may collapse. Obviously that would be devastating to your home and even a danger to your family. A roofer with winter roof repair and replacement experience will be able to help you through any of these issues and ensure the safety of your family and your home.

Cons of Winter Roof Work

Although there are several advantages to getting work done in the winter, we would not be entirely honest if we did not admit to a few downsides. Make sure you discuss these issues with your contractor when you are discussing the details and logistics of your planned replacement.

1. Winter weather can be harsh.

While harsh winter weather is a good reason to get your roof fixed in the winter, it is also a good reason not to. Heavy rains and freezing conditions can make it difficult to safely work outside, particularly on a roof. Thus, your planned job may have to be postponed if the forecast takes a turn for the wet.

The good news is that contractors are used to working in winter conditions and understand all of the considerations. Your contractor will ensure that work is completed in a manner that is safe for your home even if it means a few postponements.

Ultimately, we are all about high quality workmanship and getting a job done as expediently and economically as possible. If you share those values, give us a call to get an estimate and have a discussion about what a winter roof job may mean for you.

2. Some aspects of roof repair and replacement are temperature sensitive.

Although your roof is made to withstand a wide variety of weather conditions, very cold or very hot weather can complicate repairs and replacements because the materials behave differently in different temperatures.

For example, shingles can become very soft in high temperatures and very stiff and brittle when it sinks below freezing. This changes the way that your contractor and roofers will need to handle your shingles as they are being placed.

Another issue is that some of the sealants used in roof installation do not seal as well in extremely low temperatures. As a result, your contractor will need to use special sealants or choose a warmer winter day in order to ensure your roof is as waterproof as possible.

There are definitely certain types of roof that cannot be installed in certain types of weather. Talk to your contractor if you have any questions about what types of roof are best for the season in which you wish to have an installation. In Tennessee, we luckily have a great deal of time that is warmer than freezing on many or most winter days. Thus, there is a huge window of opportunity for accomplishing work that cannot be done in subzero temps.

Ultimately, an experienced contractor knows how to deal with a variety of roof repairs and even complete replacement in cold weather. Although many people choose summer as a time to get home repairs, roofers often have to perform emergency repairs and otherwise work in cold and/or wet conditions.

3. Winter is busy.

Although we try to minimize the wear and tear on our customers’ lives, getting home repairs is never entirely convenient. There will be workers on your roof, work vehicles in from of your house, and a certain amount of daily inconvenience.

Winter, unfortunately, is one of the busier seasons of the year. Families have fall sports, a range of winter holiday obligations, and then they are back to their regular grind. In summer, on the other hand, people tend to be taking it a little slower and even may be on vacation long enough to replace a roof.

Although winter is generally a busy time, there may be times when you could fit a roof installation into your hectic schedule. Unlike many remodeling jobs, a new roof generally can be done expediently and is likely to be finished on schedule. Our company works hard to minimize the amount of time and inconvenience that our clients have to deal with.

FAQs: How to Replace a Roof in Winter

If you are interested in replacing a roof this winter, there are several considerations. We have answered the most common questions here for your convenience.

Q: What is the best temperature for replacing a roof?

A: The exact answer depends on the type of shingles and the way that they are sealed. However, the ideal temperature is generally between 40 and 85 degrees Fahrenheit. Anything above or below this range is less than ideal, but can often be mitigated by using alternative methods and materials.

Q: Why are some materials inappropriate for winter installation?

A: There are several factors that can make some roof materials poorly suited to winter installation. First, asphalt shingles often become brittle when it is less than 40 degrees Fahrenheit. These shingles then are more likely to break as they are being placed. Fiberglass and shake shingles often have similar issues.

In other cases, the adhesives and sealants are at fault. The adhesives used in self-adhesive shingles have a difficult time sticking when it is below 40 degrees.

If you choose another type of shingle material aside from asphalt, you’re not necessarily out of the woods. Fiberglass shingles are very susceptible to fracturing in the winter, and shakes can also break apart as temperatures approach the freezing mark. However, there are many ways that a professional roofer can mitigate these circumstances and make materials work even in freezing temperatures.

Q: How does a professional make materials work effectively in extremely cold temperatures?

A: All materials used on a roof are designed to withstand temperatures well under freezing. However, installing them before 40 degrees can take some special skill and handling. There are several ways that we make sure our materials are performing in top form even when the temperature is not ideal.

First, materials can be stored in a heated garage or vehicle. From there, it usually takes hours for them to cool to the point where they are difficult to use.

In addition, we use a different technique for applying sealant. In winter, we hand-seal shingles using a special cold weather sealant rather than using self-stick shingles.

In addition to keeping the shingles warm, it’s also important to use proper technique for sealing shingles in the winter. Most roofing shingles are designed with thermally-activated asphalt sealant. This bonds the shingles to the roof using sunlight, and it can take up to a couple of weeks for the shingles to completely stick. However, in the winter we simply use different types of sealant. These work just as well but are applied and cured in a different way.

In some ways, installing a roof in the winter is a better plan. We can see immediately any weak points and any shingles likely to blow off, then fix problems before they occur. Your roof is put to the test while your contractor is still on site.

Q: Does a roof installed in winter require any special maintenance?

A: There are a few considerations when a roof is installed in winter. First, it is important not to walk on the newly installed roof for several days. This is particularly important in cold or freezing temperatures, when the shingles will be especially brittle. It is especially crucial in areas of the roof that are uneven or curved, as these are more prone to breakage in general.

Other than this, a new roof installed in winter has the same considerations as any roof. It will need to be inspected every six months and any time there is a serious storm or other suspected damage.

Q: Is it ever too cold to install a roof?

A: The answer to this question will be different for each contractor. However, in general, below 20 degrees Fahrenheit is when it starts getting too cold. At this point, workers will need to wear heavy enough clothing that they will have trouble performing well.

A qualified contractor will know when it is too cold and call off the operation. However, this is rare in most areas of the US. A great deal of the South is warm enough for roofing throughout almost all of the year.

Q: What type of roof materials are best for winter roof installation?

Any type of roof can be installed in the winter – at the very least, in certain types of winter weather. However, metal roofs are the easiest to install when it is chilly outside. Because they do not use shingles and sealants that behave differently in different temperatures, they can be installed at any time without major changes in technique.

Q: Aren’t roofs made to withstand winter weather?

A modern roof indeed is made to withstand most of what Mother Nature throws at it. However, like all materials, it is not made to last forever or to withstand infinite levels of strain. All roofs have to be replaced routinely throughout the lifetime of a house.

As a roof gets older, it develops small issues that often are not apparent to the homeowner. This is the reason that we recommend getting regular roof inspections. We can identify any problems and fix them before they lead to huge amounts of damage.

However, even with proper maintenance, winter is the time of most strain on your roof. As a result, it can be a good time to replace a roof that is likely to break down under the pressure of cold and precipitation.

Is It Time for a New Roof?

If you live in the Nashville, Knoxville, or Chattanooga areas and need a new roof, don’t let the season stop you. Winter may be coming, but a new and safer roof will save you some shivering and a great deal of worry. Call us today to find out if your roof can be replaced even when the weather outside is frightful. We offer consultations and estimates to make the process transparent and smooth. And Remember: Daniel Hood Roofing Systems always offers $250 off for active or retired military.

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