Are any of us truly prepared to take on another Iowa winter? The holidays are fun, but after all the commotion and excitement dies down, the cold, dark days continue on for months. In Iowa, that means trudging through snow, early morning ice-scraping sessions, bitter winds, and dangerous driving conditions. Harsh winter weather also takes a toll on your roof. Here are four ways to make sure it’s up to the challenge so you can sit back and relax in comfort this winter.
1. Clean your gutters, clear debris, and cut back branches.
After the leaves fall, clean out your gutters and make sure your downspouts are free of blockages so melting snow and ice will have a clear path away from your home. Clogged gutters can contribute to water pooling on the roof, leaks, and even structural and foundation damage to your home. Keeping them clear is necessary to protect your roof in all seasons.
If you can safely do so, remove any leaves, branches, and other debris that has landed on your roof. You can also leave this job to the professionals as part of an annual roof inspection. To keep your roof clear of debris longer and prevent damage from limbs that become weighted down by snow and ice, cut back branches before wintry weather sets in.
2. Examine your roof.
While you’re on the ladder, look at the roof and notice whether any shingles seem to be damaged or missing. Cracking, curling, and loss of granules are signs that your shingles are deteriorating and may need to be replaced. Look closely at areas that are especially prone to leaks, such as roof valleys and the areas around skylights, chimneys, and other protrusions. If your roof appears to be sagging, this can indicate a structural problem that needs prompt professional care. If you’re not comfortable getting up on the ladder yourself, hire a professional to do this for you.
3. Consider installing heat cables and/or snow guards.
Heat cables can help prevent roof damage by creating channels that allow melting snow and ice to flow freely off the roof and through your gutter system. While heat cables aren’t a complete solution to rooftop snow and ice, they can reduce buildup and help prevent water from pooling and seeping beneath the shingles.
Snow guards work as barriers to prevent snow from falling off your roof all at once, creating a “roof avalanche.” Snow guards are most often used with metal roofs because snow can slide off them with little resistance. While not usually necessary with shingle roofs, snow guards are sometimes recommended for shingle roofs that are steeply pitched. If you’re not sure whether your roof needs snow guards, ask a trusted roofing professional.
4. Assess your attic’s ventilation and insulation.
Ice dams are a common roof problem in areas like the Midwest that experience cold winters. While you may not know that the sparkling icicles that form along the roofline are a problem, they can be silently damaging your home by allowing water infiltration, which creates ideal conditions for problems like rot and mold growth. Ice dams often form as a result of snow falling on a roof that’s warmer than the surrounding air. The snow melts, reaches the cooler edge of the roof, and refreezes, forming icicles and a ridge of ice that can trap water, potentially damaging your shingles and gutters.
Another problem that inadequate attic insulation and ventilation can cause is condensation. When warm air rises to the attic space, it meets cooler surfaces. Because warm air can hold more moisture than cold air, those cool surfaces collect moisture released by the warm air as it cools—much like your glass of iced tea collects moisture on a summer day. In your attic, this can cause dripping that may appear at first to be a roof leak. Ensuring that your attic space is adequately ventilated and insulated will keep your roof and attic cool and keep the warm air where it belongs—in your living spaces.
Winterize your Iowa roof!
Hedrick Construction is located in Huxley, Iowa and has been proudly serving Ames, Ankeny, Des Moines, and surrounding communities since 2002. We know how to keep Iowa homes cozy and safe through the rough winter weather. Download our free ebook on fall and winter roofing concerns for more great tips and helpful information for keeping your roof in top shape.