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10 Problems Your Roof Can Face During Winter

Homeownership can come with many different responsibilities, not all of which are pleasant. One of the most crucial tasks you may face is taking care of your roof. Roof replacement can be one of the most costly expenses you will have, so keeping your roof in good condition is a wise way to spend both your time and your money. At Roof Plus, we know that New Jersey winters can be especially hard on your roof and we want you to be prepared for the colder weather. 

Whether you live near the coast or further inland, temperatures can often drop below zero. The combination of colder temperatures mixed with snow and ice can have a damaging effect on everything from your flashings to your shingles. Here are the top 10 problems your roof can face when the temperatures drop and the snow flies. 


Problem #1: Damage From Falling Tree Branches

Harsh winter weather is not only hard on your roof, but it can also be damaging to the trees in your neighborhood. Snow and ice collecting on brittle tree branches can be too much for them, causing them to crack and fall to the ground…or your roof! It is important to always keep your trees trimmed to minimize branches that are leaning over your roof. Annual roof cleaning can also be an important step in preventing long-term damage from fallen debris. 


Problem #2: Damage and Leaks from Ice Dams

In New Jersey, homes can be susceptible to ice dams from melting and refreezing ice. Warm air from your home can creep into your attic, causing the underside of your room to heat up. Any snow that is on your roof will melt and run down the shingles until it reaches the colder overhang where it will freeze again. Over time, this can create a dam where water will pool higher and higher until it creeps under the shingles and into your house. 

The best solution is to properly ventilate and insulate your attic. You have the option to either insulate your attic so that heat stays in and away from the roof, or you can choose to insulate it and ventilate it so that heat from your home stays out of the attic. Either solution will help to keep your roof cold, preventing ice dams from forming. 


Problem #3: Icicle Formation

A Christmas gingerbread house is not complete without a row of tiny icicles on the eaves. But while icicles can make your home look like a Christmas cottage, they can be a hazard for both the passerby and your roof. Icicles are formed when a combination of bright sunshine but freezing temperatures causes snow to melt and then freeze again before the water reaches the ground. The weight from icicles can damage the roof and falling ice can tear off gutters and pieces of your roof, and be a danger for anyone underneath. 

Fixing problems with the ventilation and insulation in your attics, such as discussed in the previous section, can also help with icicle formation. If you are still having problems with overflow and icicles, you can also install heat cables in your gutters and downspouts to prevent freezing in these areas and keep water moving properly, even when the temperatures plummet at night. 


Problem #4: Damaged Flashing

Flashings are waterproof metal strips that are placed in particularly vulnerable places on your roof. They are often located near chimneys, skylights, windows, and doors, and they help direct water over these sensitive areas to keep it from seeping in and leaking into your home. During the winter, water can find even the smallest defects in the flashing and make its way underneath. The water can then freeze and expand, causing further damage and the possibility of even more leaking. 

It is a good idea to have a roof inspection regularly to make sure flashing is sitting flat against the roof. When it rains or the snow is melting, you can also have a roofing contractor check vents and chimneys for leaking as these problems can usually be traced back to damaged flashings. 


Problem #5: Missing or Damaged Shingles

Winter days can also come with their fair share of wind, and shingles can become damaged in these conditions. When the wind itself or falling debris causes damage to your shingles, the damaged portions should be fixed as quickly as possible before water, ice, and snow can make their way into the broken areas and cause further problems. Prompt repairs can save a lot of money and trouble in the future. 


Problem #6: Poor Ventilation and Condensation

Once again, the combination of a warm interior and freezing exterior can cause problems for a home. A warm attic and a cold roof can cause condensation to form in between the two. This unwanted moisture can’t escape and is the perfect breeding ground for mold and mildew. This can be hazardous for your health and necessitate the replacement of insulation. Since cleaning mold and mildew and repairing your home is both expensive and time-consuming, the best course of action is to stay on top of the problem and prevent the condensation from forming. 

In addition to having these areas properly ventilated and insulated to keep moisture from becoming trapped, it is also a good idea to perform a visual inspection of your attic a few times per year. If you notice any signs of mold formation, you should call an expert right away to remove the mold and locate and repair the source of the problem.  


Problem #7: Pests

A nice warm home can be extremely attractive to animals and pests of all kinds when the temperatures start to drop. Animals can be clever and can find even the smallest holes to burrow in and enter your home. Once they take up residence, they can cause damage to your roof, insulation, attic, and more. During the winter, you may be sharing your home with squirrels, bats, mice, and even birds or raccoons. 

The best remedy is to fix any faults in your roof and fill in any holes that a pest could use to enter your home. Make sure to call a professional to get rid of any pests before closing holes so that you don’t trap an animal inside. You should always be checking for signs of unwelcome guests such as wood or trash that has been chewed on, signs of burrowing or animal nests, and animal waste. 


Problem #8: Strain From Additional Weight

Most roofs in New Jersey can handle the strain of even a heavy snowstorm, but snow can weigh a ton and put a lot of pressure on your roof. Heavy snow can cause damage to a roof resulting in leaks, internal damage, and collapse in the most severe cases. Leaking on the inside of your home, cracks on interior walls and ceiling, and loud cracking or popping sounds coming from up above may all be signs that the snow is too heavy for your roof. 

If your roof is susceptible to the effects of a heavy snowstorm, you can carefully try to remove the snow using a snow shovel or another tool. However, climbing up on your roof can be dangerous, especially during the winter, so it may also be time to consider a roof replacement. A brand new roof installed by a contractor who is familiar with New Jersey weather can give you peace of mind even when the snow is collecting outside. 


Problem #9: Clogged Gutters

As we mentioned previously, gutters can become clogged by ice when daytime melting turns to nighttime freezing. While proper insulation and heat strips can help, gutters can still become clogged in the winter by debris and leaves that are blown onto your roof by wintery winds. Keeping your gutters clear all winter long is essential for preventing pooling water and all of the resulting problems.


Problem #10: Leaks on Low-Grade Roofs

A roof with a steep grade is a great advantage because snow and ice can slide right off when the sun warms the roof. However, if you have a flat or low-grade roof, you may be in for some more troublesome problems. Rather than flowing off of the roof, water from snowmelt or an early spring rain can sit in one place, working its way through tiny imperfections into your roof. Within hours, you could be looking at dozens of leaks all over your home. 

If you have a low-slope roof, there are many different solutions that you can take advantage of to keep it from leaking during the winter or any other time of year. A roofer can help by installing flashing or a rubber membrane, or by replacing your roof with something that has a slight slope to allow for run-off. 


Preventing Common Problems

Insulating your roof and attics properly and installing ridge vents and soffit vents to maintain airflow is crucial for preventing many of these problems. A few simple updates to your roof can make a big difference in surviving the cold New Jersey winters with an intact roof. Call Roof Plus today for help this winter.