5 ways to prevent the winter climate from wrecking your roof

The following simple steps can prevent ice dams, roofing collapses and leaks through the entire winter season. Complete all of these steps before the first snowfall for best results.

5 ways to prevent the winter climate from wrecking your roof

1. Clean out rain gutters every fall

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 that 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 to clear the rain gutters every year. You should also verify that they drain properly; an inadequate slant 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; 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 also be damaged. A quick evaluation 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, these 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 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.

The best way to prevent winter roofing damage is to address any previous problems early in the spring, and then look for any new potential problems in the fall. If you've never had any problems with your roof, you'll only need to clean your rain gutters and check your roof for damage to avoid most complications.

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