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Is Your Roof Ready for Winter?

If you don’t take care of problems with your roof before the cold weather arrives, those issues can worsen over time, creating an even more expensive roofing headache in the spring. Here’s what you need to know to prepare your roof for winter. 

A roof covered in snow and ice during a snow storm iStock

Are you planning to winterize your roof? Of all the home improvements you make annually, this is one that probably doesn’t come to mind. After all, the roof is out of your sight most of the time, so it’s all too easy to forget about it. But this is one of the most important parts of your home, and if properly maintained, it provides an enormous amount of energy efficiency, helping you save on heating and cooling bills.

Tips for Getting Your Roof Ready for the Cold Months

You want to ensure you start way before the cold temperatures and the extreme elements arrive to ensure your roof can handle whatever winter throws at it. Check out these tips to protect your roof from harsh weather conditions.

Check the Gutters

Gutters play a critical role in protecting your roof. They collect rainwater and direct it away from your house. They also protect your foundation by preventing water from pooling around the base of your home. However, when they get clogged, they can cause a whole host of problems. Not only can clogged gutters become a way for pests to enter your home, but they can also trap water, which can then damage your roof, siding, or foundation.

In winter, this trapped water in your gutters can form potentially destructive ice dams. Heavy ice may cause gutters to detach from the roof or even collapse, leaving your entire home susceptible to water damage. Before winter sets in, it is a good idea to check that your gutters aren’t blocked. You can clear them out yourself or hire a gutter cleaning company to remove the leaves, twigs, gunk, and other stuff that has been collected in order to keep the water flowing properly. Another alternative is to invest in gutter guards to prevent blockages in the first place.

Inspect Attic Space for Proper Ventilation and Insulation

The attic is a significant part of your roof. When it is properly ventilated, it allows for good air circulation. This is important because air doesn’t flow evenly in an attic during the winter, which could lead to the irregular distribution of warm and cold air. Improper could lead to structural damage.

Another factor in protecting your roof is having sufficient insulation. Lack of insulation can also cause ice damns to form on your roof. In addition to protecting your roof and attic space from moisture, proper attic insulation can also provide greater energy efficiency for your home. Ensuring that your attic space has the right ventilation and insulation can safeguard your roof during winter and help lower your energy costs.

Check for Missing Shingles

A few missing shingles here and there may not seem like a big deal. But even the tiniest amount of exposed roof could lead to a leak in your home. This is especially true if your attic decking is comprised of OSB board. This type of board can get severely damaged by water since it is made primarily of sawdust. Even if you have plywood, exposure to moisture over the long term can cause wood rot.

So when it comes to prepping your roof for winter, always check if there are missing shingles. If any have disappeared, it is a good idea to replace your shingles or hire a roofing company to make these repairs before winter begins.

Inspect Shingles for Missing Granules

If you have an asphalt roof, there’s a chance some of the shingles may have lost a good amount of granules. They protect your roof from the sun’s UV rays as well as fires. They also help shed rainwater and snow so as to prevent moisture from remaining on the roof.

Newer asphalt shingles have a thick layer of granules that look like very small pebbles that lie perfectly on the asphalt matting. Worn granules will look like a mix of small pebbles and patches of silver and white where the granules have deteriorated from the elements. The damage typically won’t be uniform. Instead, there will be a few shingles here and there that have some granules, while others seem to be missing a substantial amount of them.

When granules are worn, they leave your home more vulnerable to damage. The granules on your shingles may be missing due to hail damage or just because your roof is old. In either case, you will likely need a roof replacement.

Get Rid of Microorganisms with Roof Cleaning

One of the biggest threats to your roof is allowing microorganisms, like moss, lichen, and algae, to develop on it. Although they may grow as tiny patches throughout your roof, they can cause massive damage. Moss is a green plant-like structure that shoots roots into your roof and starts to wreak havoc on your roof decking and cause leaks. Lichen is usually present with moss but looks white in color. These two microorganisms are typically symbiotic and work together to cause significant harm.

Another detrimental microorganism is black algae, also known as Gloeocapsa magma. Although this organism looks like a big blob of dirt, it is actually living and feeding on the granules of your shingles. All three of these microorganisms can destroy your roof and make it even worse as snow and ice sit on your roof over winter.

Before winter sets in, it’s smart to clean your roof and add zinc stripping to minimize the potential for microorganisms to form on your roof.

Check for Leaks

The easiest and safest way to inspect for roof leaks is to look at your attic’s interior for any water damage. Even the smallest amount of water damage from a tiny hole in your roof can worsen over the winter, so you want to make sure to repair the crack or hole ASAP. If you have some skills in fixing roofs, then examining damage on the exterior would give you a better idea of how to go about making repairs, particularly if there are missing shingles. Otherwise, leave such repairs to an expert.

Trim Branches

Look for low-hanging branches that could potentially knock against the roof during high winds and damage the shingles. Also, watch out for weak limbs, which could fall onto your roof, causing a considerable amount of damage.

To minimize this problem, prune branches and limbs that are hanging in close proximity to your roof. You should only attempt to do this if you are skilled at trimming and pruning trees. Not only is removing limbs that are up high very dangerous, but you could affect the structural integrity of the tree, which may cause it to collapse in the future. This could lead to considerable damage to your home and other valuables or even result in injury.

Check for Sagging

If your roof seems to slope inward, this could indicate that your roof decking is sagging due to existing water damage. When left untreated over winter, heavy snow and ice could result in roof collapse. If you notice that your roof is sinking, you’d be wise to replace the existing roof decking before the winter months begin.