If the Farmer’s Almanac is correct, the winter of 2015-2016 will be a repeat of last winter – and even more scientific predictors agree. Here are five steps you can take to winterize your roof and help prevent roof damage.
Clean your gutters and downspouts
Before the temperatures drop and snow starts falling, clear out all gutters to allow water to run freely from your roof to your gutters and away from your home. Clogged gutters can result in water backing up into the foundation and can ruin trim on the exterior. Also, make sure the downspout isn’t clogged.
Trim overhanging tree branches
Check for large overhanging tree branches that could get heavy with snowfall and potentially break and fall onto your roof. You will want to have those branches trimmed before the snow starts falling. Low-hanging branches can also scrape your roof and damage shingles.
Inspect your roof
Look for damaged, loose or missing shingles that may leak as well as shingles that are curling, lifting or buckling. Inspect your roof for moss or mold, which can lead to early deterioration of shingles. After a severe storm with hail or high winds, it is a good idea to check your roof for damage. You also might consider having your roof inspected for damage by a professional at least once a year.
Consider asking a home-energy auditor to examine your roof for leaks as well as the area of your siding that meets the gutters, to make sure there is no potential damage.
Insulate your attic
If your attic isn’t properly insulated, it can promote the formation of ice dams when there is as little as one to two inches of snow, says Anne Marshall, owner of Marshall Building and Remodeling in Riverside, R.I. When heat rises during the day, your attic will heat up and so will your roof, causing the snow to start to melt, she says. When the temperature drops again, the snow will refreeze, potentially forming an ice dam. “Prevention is the best solution when it comes to an ice dam,” she adds.
If an ice dam does form, the best way to melt it is to fill a nylon stocking with calcium chloride ice melt and place it on top of the ice, says Marshall. Try to position the stocking vertically across the ice, with a bit overhanging the edge of the gutter. Only use calcium chloride, not rock salt, which will damage your roof, but be aware that shrubs and plants below the gutters or near downspouts could be damaged by the calcium chloride.
To better insulate your attic, seal areas where exhaust fans, attic hatches and small holes allow heat to escape from your house and get into the attic. If your attic isn’t already insulated, you can purchase foam insulation and weather stripping at any home improvement store and add those to the plywood or drywall in your attic.
Ventilate your attic
To prevent ice dams, you also need to make sure your attic is well ventilated. This will keep the underside of your roof cold and prevent the snow from melting and refreezing, Marshall says. Proper ventilation will keep the attic temperature closer to the outside temperature to prevent snow on the roof from melting and refreezing at the eaves.
If your attic ventilation is poor, water vapor generated from bathing, cooking and cleaning can reach the cold underside of a roof deck and condense. If this isn’t properly addressed, moisture build-up could damage your roof deck, insulation and drywall.
If a large amount of snow does collect on your roof, it’s a good idea to rake it off. However, Marshall says, you need to be careful because you can scrape off some of the protective mineral surface from the shingles if you rake too hard.