While winter can sometimes make our home look more beautiful with icicles and snow, it can also cause many problems that we need to be aware of. The cold weather can create issues in many areas of your house, but you should always pay attention to your roof. It’s the part of your house most susceptible to “winter woes”, and if ignored will result in major headaches. The most common problem associated with the roof in the winter is ice damming, but there are lesser known complications that also need to be considered.
How Snow Affects Your Roof
The most basic and obvious thing to consider is snow itself. Anyone who’s ever shoveled it, knows how heavy it can be. The International Residential Code, or IRC, has minimum structural requirements for all roof systems. The requirements depend on what region you live in, and are intended to be in excess of any typical snowstorms that you might see. So, assuming that your roof was built to code originally and has not been compromised in any way since, you have nothing to worry about.
However, if rafters have been subject to water damage, the foundation has settled unevenly, or anything has happened to affect the integrity of the roof system, you need to reconsider what type of snow load your roof can handle. If this is the case, there is a solution much simpler than rebuilding your roof; remove the snow. There are tools on the market specifically for this, which I recommend. Unless you’re very comfortable walking on a roof, it’s not a good idea to use a normal snow shovel.
The Problem With Blocked Pipes
Another problem associated with roofs in the winter is blockage of plumbing vent pipes. Even if your attic is properly vented and insulated, it can still become so cold that the warm vapor passing through the pipe can freeze before it reaches the outside air. This can happen so continuously that the entire pipe becomes sealed with ice.
The consequences of a blocked vent pipe are not good. First, the entire plumbing system can become stopped up because of a vacuum being created since there is nowhere for the system to breathe. Second, and more harmfully, if the traps of your sink and toilets have gone dry, dangerous vapors and gasses could be released into your house.
Solving The Blocked Vent Pipe Problem
There is also a simple solution to this problem. Go into your attic and find all of the pipes that penetrate through the roof to the outside. If they are not insulated, insulate them. This will keep the pipes warm and allow the vapor to pass through the cold attic without freezing before it reaches the open air.
Ice Damming, A Common Winter Issue
Now let’s take a look at ice damming, which is the most common problem stemming from winter weather. The way that roof coverings are installed assumes that water is always moving from the ridge to the eave. Ice damming actually reverses this movement and can cause issues ranging from cosmetic water stains to rotted sheathing and rafters. Icicles are an early indicator of the problem, so beware if you see them.
What Causes Ice Damming?
Ice damming is caused by different surface temperatures in different areas of the roof. In order for it to occur, the lower portion of the roof that over hangs the wall needs to be colder than the section of roof above it. If the upper portion of the roof is warmer, it is able to melt snow into water which flows down the roof. Once the water gets to the bottom of the roof, it hits the eave and freezes. This process repeats until the dam is formed.
Reasons For A Warm Roof
There are two possible causes for a warm roof. The first is poor ventilation in the attic, so there is no air movement and heat stays trapped. The second is poor insulation or egregious heat leaks from the living areas of the house. There are many temporary solutions that will slow or stop ice damming but the only way to truly fix the problem is to ensure that the attic is properly insulated and sealed from the heat below and vented to outside air.
Considering A Metal Roof
If you live in an area that gets a lot of snow you might want to consider using a metal roof, which encourages the snow and ice so slide off. Thus, preventing the possibility of an ice dam. While you’ve got the roof torn off, you may also want to do a little remodeling and remove any skylights. They are prone to leaking in many normal conditions, but if you’ve also got ice damming they are going to be much more trouble than they’re worth.
Heat Cables To The Rescue!
Aside from putting a new roof on or truly fixing the problem, the best short-term solution is to use heat cables. They work by heating the lower portion of the roof so that the water running down is not able to freeze before it runs off the roof. It’s absolutely not a long-term fix but it’s relatively inexpensive and they are fairly reliable.
Fairfax Roofing Services – Contact Dirt Connections Today!
Winter can really put a roof to the test. But, with the help of the professional residential roofing services offered by Dirt Connections, you won’t fall victim to any problems that come their way. To learn more about how our skilled contractors can help you assess, repair, or replace your home’s roof – call us today or send us an online message. We guarantee our residential roofing solutions will give you the outcome you desired while remaining well within your budget.