Winter Weather Contributes To Roofing Damage


Winter storms and their aftermath regularly contribute to roofing damage. With so many different roofing styles and roofing materials in the Madison WI area the potential for damage is high. The chances of damage increase with the age of shingles and under-layers.

The buildup of snow and ice coupled with repeated freezing and thawing is a recipe for costly roof repairs. Being alert to threats and taking timely action wards off serious problems.

Roofing Damage | Madison WI | Sims Exteriors & Remodeling
Specialized tools like a roof rake help protect your roof from heavy snowload, but can be hard on shingles and gutters.

The best known of the winter threats to roofing materials is the ever-present possibility of ice dams. These and other concerns do not limit the threat to roofing, they cause problems with the structure itself.

Winter Roofing Damage Takes Many Forms

There’s no doubt ice dams lead to much more than shingle damage. The force of the ice forces moisture under shingles where it leaks into walls and ceilings. Beyond structural damage, it opens the structure to mold, mildew and pests. Melting ice flowing to the ground represents a source of leaks into basements, too. Proper insulation and attic ventilation minimizes the threat.

Beyond the obvious buildup of ice around gutters and edges, there are additional dangers to consider, including:

  • Accumulating snow – weeks of snow buildup adds an enormous amount of weight. That’s weight the roof may not be built to take. Compact the snow with spring rain and the melt/thaw process and it forms an almost solid layer. The downward force can crack rafters and cause a total collapse.
  • Blocked vents – snow drifts on the roof are capable of blocking plumbing vents. Blocked vents result in several conditions inside your home including poor drainage in sinks and tubs and even the backup of dangerous sewer gas.
  • Leaks – old, worn flashing and seals around vents, pipes, chimneys and skylights are impacted by extreme temperatures. When they crack from subzero winter temperatures they expand when temperatures go above freezing. The cracks get wider and invite moisture to invade.
  • Condensation – when warm, moist air meets a cold surface water accumulates. Poor insulation allows condensation in a home’s attic, opening it to mildew and mold.
  • Winter winds – high wind grabs any loose or damaged shingles and exposes the roofing below. It begins loosening shingles and eventually tears them off. A winter wind storm including heavy snow means critical damage can be covered up for weeks.
  • Debris – included in storm threats are debris like flying tree limbs. Made brittle by the cold, limbs are projectiles – especially when large, old trees are close to the house.

Beware Of Going On The Roof – Any Time Of Year

Roofing Damage | Madison WI | Sims Exteriors & Remodeling
Ice is the ultimate enemy of every Wisconsin roof – but it is not the only one.

One of the obvious ways to minimize the chance of damage to your roof is to keep it clear. The pitch of the roof dictates how quickly water, snow and ice slide off when conditions are favorable. For flatter roofs there are custom-designed tools – snow rakes – to help. Each year hundreds of people climb onto the roof to remove snow. Each year hundreds of people are injured in roof-related accidents.

If you have concerns for your roof, call in a professional. Before climbing yourself consider the danger to you and your property, including:

  • Falls – falls from ladders are one of the most common homeowner activities. They result in everything from minor injury to broken bones and fatalities. Combine the added risk of navigating on ice and snow and winter falls are even more serious threats.
  • Good intentions – mounting the roof to chop, chip and shovel ice and snow seems like a simple move. However, all the tools used to remove snow and ice pose a danger to shingles, gutters and sublayers.
  • Cracked shingles – frozen shingles are easily cracked when an adult walks on them. Attempts to protect your roof often damage it.
  • Falling ice – icicles are common everywhere. They are to the romance of the season – until they fall on someone’s head. Large icicles damage gutters and roofing edges. Efforts to remove them can do the same thing. In addition, “knocking ice off the roof” puts these heavy-weight projectiles in the air. Falling icicles are threats to people, pets and property.

Time And Wear Contribute To Roofing Damage

Just because two roofs are installed with equal workmanship and identical roofing materials doesn’t mean they will wear at the same rate. There are factors that impact the rate or wear – in addition to age and weather. They include:

  • Roof preparation – how the roofing products are stored and handled before installation. Professional roofing contractors don’t leave bundles of shingles unprotected from the weather and that includes leaving them in the hot sun.
  • Roof slope – steeper roofs drain better so there’s less chance of water penetration.
  • Roof color – lighter colors resist breakdown from the sun’s UV rays and heat better than more popular darker choices.
  • Exposure – a roof that’s shaded most of the day as opposed to all-day direct sunlight wears differently.
  • Roofing installation – attention to details like roof flashing and the layers beneath shingles are critical elements in protecting the roof. The life of the roof depends as much on installation technique as it does using high-quality materials.

No Substitute For Experience

Installation skill is a major factor that separates part-time roofers from professionals like Sims Exteriors & Remodeling. Sims has decades of experience serving greater Dane County, including Middleton, Waunakee, Fitchburg, Oregon Verona, McFarland, Stoughton, Cottage Grove, Sun Prairie and Deforest.

If you have concerns about your roof from covering materials to attic insulation and ventilation, contact Sims Exteriors & Remodeling by email or calling 608-825-4500. We’ll schedule an evaluation of your roof and explain possible roofing damage on your Madison WI home.

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