The middle of January is the worst time to discover that your roof is damaged and leaking. In spring, when the snow starts to melt, you’ll quickly find the problem has worsened. To help prevent damage to your roof this winter, here are five things you should do before the first heavy snowfall hits.
1. Clean out rain gutters each fall
Packed-full rain gutters will substantially increase the likelihood of ice dams, but gutters filled with leaves can also buckle when they’re filled with ice and snow and can’t effectively drain.
- Rain gutters that don’t drain can also collect more snow, which increases the chance of rot along the soffit and fascia.
For these reasons, it’s essential that the rain gutters are cleaned every year.
- While cleaning them, you should also verify that they drain properly. An inadequate slope can also cause water to stagnate in the gutter.
2. Address the cause of any ice dams
If you’ve ever had an ice dam, it’s likely that the moisture barrier and insulation in your attic is inadequate.
- Schedule an inspection with a contractor who can suggest how to prevent further ice dams from forming.
- In most cases, you’ll need to add additional insulation to your attic or at least install a wide piece of metal flashing along the edges of the roof to prevent more leaks.
Don’t wait for another ice dam to build up.
- As they melt and water seeps under your shingles, leaks can cause the structural members of your roof to rot.
3. Check the structure of your roof
Older homes can have inadequately sized roof trusses or rafters. In most cases, when you read about a roof collapse, ineffective roofing structural members are to blame.
- Roofing rafters can easily be reinforced once you know about the problem, so get a professional to check your roof if your home was built prior to the 1950s.
Also, if you’ve had roof leaks in the past, your rafters could be damaged.
- A quick assessment by a professional will ensure that your roof can withstand the snow load that’s typical in your area.
4. Look for damaged shingles
After every winter and wind storm, you should check for any cracked, missing or deformed shingles on your roof.
- During the spring, damaged shingles should be replaced. If they’re ignored, leaks may occur. Also, the underlying wood sheathing and rafters could rot when they’re exposed to melting snow.
5. Eliminate icicle havens
If your roof regularly collects icicles, an improperly ventilated soffit or inadequate insulation in the attic may be to blame.
- Call a contractor who will be able to evaluate your house’s current structure and can make suggestions.
- Icicles don’t just represent a safety hazard; they can also damage the drip edge and cause ice dams. In turn, this may potentially cause damage to your roof.
The best way to help prevent damage to your home’s roof in winter is to visually inspect it for new problems in the fall and address any existing issues early in the spring. If your roof has been fairly trouble-free, chances are you’ll only need to clean your rain gutters. If you’re uncomfortable climbing ladders or doing the inspection, don’t hesitate to call a professional roofer for advice.