It’s winter in the midwest and even though it has been a relatively mild one so far, you still want to make sure your roof is protecting your home from roof leaks when the inevitable rain and snow arrive. If you are not comfortable with climbing up on the roof, you can look through a pair of binoculars for a close visual inspection of your shingles or, you can also have a certified professional come out and do the inspection.
Protecting Your Home From Roof Leaks In Winter
1. Check The Roof Sub Structure To Make Sure It Is Sound
The roof sub structure is the plywood decking material that is placed over the framework of the roof prior to the application of the underlayment and shingles. The wooden decking material can begin to rot if water has leaked under the shingles in the past. Check the plywood decking for signs of warping. If warping has occurred, you will want to get a professional roofing contractor out to make sure the damage is not extensive.
2. Check The Roof’s Flashing Areas
The flashing areas of the roof are located in valleys, around chimneys, skylights and other penetrations such as vent pipes and side walls that join together with a lower roof plane. These areas are the most prone to leaking so you want to make sure the shingles around them do not appear torn, bent, tattered or broken.
The shingles in the valley area shown in this picture are cracked and broken, indicating it is time for a roof replacement.
3. Inspect The Overall Roof and Gutters
Another critical factor in the integrity of your roof is keeping it free from debris both on the shingles and in the gutters. Clogged gutters can cause them to back up and force heavy rainwater up underneath the shingles. Eventually this water will find its way through to the roof decking and into the attic of your home. Inspect the entire roof as well. If you’ve found a pile of leaves in a valley area, these will need to be removed right away to prevent damage.
4. Consider Having Heavy Snow Removed From Your Roof
Getting up on a ladder to remove anything from a roof after a heavy snowfall can be dangerous. It is best to call a professional for help. If snow has really piled up several feet it can be beneficial to remove it from the critical areas mentioned above including in valleys, along roof lines and eaves. Underneath heavy snow melting will occur. The melting snow can turn to ice and back up under the shingles. If snow is especially several feet deep in valley areas, it can be beneficial to remove it.
If you live in a heavy snowfall area, you may want to consider installing electrical wires along the eave edges to help the snow melt off. This is particularly helpful where snow can accumulate more than 2-3 feet or more every winter.
5. Check The Attic For Condensation
Most people forget that your roof can also be inspected from the inside by looking in the attic. Taking a flashlight, see if you can spot heavy condensation, ice or frost on the underside of the roof decking. If this is the case, your roof ventilation is probably not adequate.
Make sure that your attic insulation does not extend over the soffit areas along the inside perimeter of the attic. Soffits provide air intake holes where fresh air is allowed to come up into the attic and ventilate up and outward through the roof vents at the top. When air is stagnated in the attic, the moisture from inside the home does not have a chance to escape and can freeze or cause frost. When melted, it drips onto the insulation. When moisture drips onto the insulation, it reduces its effectiveness and will allow more heat to escape from your home. Your attic should not be any warmer than the temperature outdoors during winter, and this is achieved through proper attic ventilation.