The winter weather in New Jersey can be harsh and unforgiving, due to the northerly location of our state. For a number of reasons, your roof can end up taking a lot of damage from the winter weather. Without proper precautions, a bad enough winter could even cause serious damage. That kind of damage is inconvenient and expensive, so you definitely want to make sure that you are prepared. A few preparations can make the difference between minor repairs and a total or near-total replacement. So, let’s go over all of the most common problems and offer you some effective solutions.
If there is significant snowfall, your roof can accumulate a lot of snow in a short period of time. Since snow is just basically frozen water, it is very heavy. Snow weighs about 20 pounds per square foot, so you can actually do the math and figure out roughly how much weight that will be.
These figures are assuming a depth of one foot, so you may have to adjust them accordingly. The average roof is about 1700 square feet, so let’s use that size for our calculations. So, 1700 feet x 20 pounds = 34,000 pounds. Again, this is a rough estimate but it should give you an idea of just how much weight we are talking about here.
As for a solution, you can hire a professional to rake the snow off your roof with a long broom-like tool. You can do a certain amount of snow removal yourself but don’t take any chances when it comes to high places. You can easily slip in snowy conditions and fall from your ladder or stool. So, if you choose to remove snow yourself, be extremely careful and take every possible precaution. Here’s a little trick: If your roof isn’t too high, you can take buckets of warmed water and splash them up there, which will melt quite a bit of snow. Putting that warmed water in a high-powered water gun or a pressure washer might be even better.
Ice Buildup Issues
With ice, the weight is less of a problem because it doesn’t tend to be as thick as snow. However, it can cause all sorts of other issues. For one thing, it can create “ice dams” that clog up your gutters and keep water from flowing correctly. When the snow and ice begin to melt, these thick ice dams will be among the last things to melt. Thus, as the water flows and cannot proceed normally, it builds up and the gutter eventually fails due to the weight.
If your roof has low “valley” areas, Ice can also build up there. A little bit isn’t a problem, but if it’s more than an inch thick you need to take action. Regardless of where it forms, ice can usually be dealt with by using the warm water method described in section one. However, since ice is a little more stubborn than snow, you might want to also use some road salt. Road salt (and similar substances) are made to dissolve ice and can be very handy in these situations.
Here’s another interesting solution: You can install heated gutters. It is possible to install heating elements in metal gutters, and that is a very effective way to prevent the buildup of snow and ice. Once it melts, it will flow off the roof normally and never builds up enough to cause any damage. It might also be possible to use these heating elements in any low valley areas. Of course, it should be noted that most well-made roofs do not have low areas that accumulate water.
There are several ways in which snow and ice can cause leakage. The weight of these substances can cause roofing materials to fail or at least buckle. That can be enough for water to begin trickling through. Also, remember that shingles are meant to shed water that comes from above. If the water builds up in a gutter or valley, it can seep under the shingles and get into the roof itself. When the conditions are below freezing, you may not know you have a leak until the thaw.
It should also be noted that water expands when it freezes. So, if water gets into a small gap and then freezes, that can cause serious damage. If you are dealing with leakage, it is essential to isolate the problem immediately. That will usually require the help of a professional inspector who can thoroughly isolate the problem. In some cases, it will be obvious enough that you don’t need that. Either way, the best thing you can do to prevent leakage is to prevent the buildup of water, snow, and ice using the methods we have already covered.
We should also talk about hail damage, as these little ice balls can do all kinds of terrible things to your roof. You usually see hail around the beginning or end of winter, when things are cold enough to freeze the rain but not cold enough to create snow. It should be noted that the damage done by hailstones increases exponentially.
To explain what this means, think about it this way. Imagine your roof gets hit with 1-inch hailstones, and then later gets hit with 2-inch hailstones. You would expect the 2-inch hailstones to do twice as much damage, right? They’re twice as large, so that would make sense. But actually, they do more than double the damage, as the study showed. Thus, you see that hail damage can be very severe indeed if the hailstones get large enough.
Prevention is very difficult here, as you cannot prevent the weather from making hail. However, you can make sure that your roof is in good condition well before the start of winter. This will at least allow your roof to weather those storms with minimal harm. You might also talk with a roofing professional about things they can do to “harden” your roof (i.e., make it more resistant to damage, especially impact damage).
This is a problem that most people don’t really think about, but it can be quite damaging. Think about those little droplets of water that form on the outside of a drinking glass. Have you ever wondered why that happens? The answer is condensation. When a warm surface and a cold surface come into contact, the exterior surface will tend to draw a little water from the surrounding air. Here’s a short video that demonstrates the idea. You may have noticed that the “water outside the glass” thing happens a lot more often with cold beverages. So, you can understand why condensation is a bigger concern in the wintertime.
Here’s how it can affect your home: The warm inside surfaces of your attic come into contact with the cold outside surfaces of your home. In response, they pull moisture from the air and it collects on the interior underside of your roof. Over time, this can rot the wood and even cause the entire roof to fail.
Dealing with condensation is not really all that hard. If this happens, it means that your home was not properly insulated and/or ventilated in the first place. This kind of thing should not happen if you have adequate insulation and ventilation, as these will prevent direct contact with warm and cold surfaces. So, if you are dealing with this kind of issue, your home is deficient in one of those two areas.
Blizzards can sometimes occur in parts of New Jersey, combining high winds and heavy snowfall. These winds are a major roof hazard, so you should always inspect your roof closely after a blizzard. Loose shingles are usually the first thing to go, along with any flashing that might have been loose. Gutters can often be casualties as well, particularly if they are only held in place by gutter nails.
According to this study, the key to wind resistance is connection strength. That means you pay special attention to the places where each part of the roof connects and strengthen them in any way possible. There are certain polymers that can be applied to your roof that will make it much harder for high winds to turn the shingles upward. You can also apply extra nails or even screws to the shingles so that they can’t “flap” in the wind. There are a lot of ways in which you can improve connection strength, but many of them will require the help of a professional roofer for both safety and effectiveness.
Whenever the winter hits, most animals are looking for some sort of shelter. You can’t really blame them for that, but you don’t want them making shelter in your home, either. During this time of year, they will go to greater lengths to get into your attic. This might include chewing through any weak spots that present themselves or squeezing themselves through extremely small gaps. Mice, in particular, can get through some unbelievably tiny spaces if they are determined to do so.
If your home has a small pest problem during the fall, it might turn into a much bigger problem when winter comes. So, you need to deal with that issue during the autumn months and get rid of those pests by whatever means are necessary. A professional exterminator is the most extreme option, but you might be able to deal with it through the use of traps, and by making things less accessible to the pests.
For instance, if rats or mice are getting into your dog food, put the dog food in a metal trash can with a lid. Even they can’t chew through that, so that’s one draw eliminated. There are many other ways in which to apply the concept of inaccessibility. Gaps in your home provide easy access, so seal all of those before winter, not just the ones on the roof. This will save you money on your heating bills anyway. Poison is obviously another option, but it’s not the best option because it can pose dangers to pets and wildlife. Poison should only be used under the direction of a professional who can use them safely.
This isn’t a risk for everyone, but should still be discussed. If you have large trees near your home, falling limbs can pose a threat. This threat is greater in winter when the trees are more likely to shed limbs. Trees have a tendency to shed limbs in response to stress, and winter can certainly provide a lot of that. This is basically the tree trying to cut off its weak or damaged parts in order to protect the whole.
Thankfully, this one isn’t too hard to handle. If you have large trees near your home, have them pruned before winter. As an additional precaution, you might also want to be careful about what you put under those trees. If there are no tree limbs within six feet of your roof, you shouldn’t have any worries. Be aware that high winds can pick up small limbs, so they don’t necessarily have to be directly over the roof to pose a threat.
As you can see, the key to dealing with winter roof problems is preparation. You already know that the weather is going to give your roof some stress, so you need to make sure it is adequately prepared. Don’t wait until the snow is coming down, because things get much harder at that point. We hope that this article will help you in that regard.
For most of these problems, you will need the help of a qualified professional, so we recommend you call RGB Construction immediately. Whether you need residential roof services, roof replacement services, or any kind of help in dealing with wintertime roof issues, our experienced team offers you the skill and professionalism that you deserve. To find out more, call RGB Construction at 856-264-9093.