How to Prepare your Roof for Winter

November 25th, 2019 BY First American Roofing

When properly installed and insulated, your roof should be able to withstand the elements and keep you and your family safe from the cold. However, in order to avoid issues like leaks during the spring thaw, it’s essential to prep your roof for winter with these tips.

Improper prep can lead to ice dams, leaks, and unforeseeable damage to your roof or gutters this winter. Plus, you may end up spending more money on those heating bills. So today, we’ll cover some of the winter roofing basics.

Tips for Prepping Your Roof for Winter

As a homeowner, it’s good to know a few key ways to winterize your home and roof to keep your family safe and warm during the winter months. It can also save you the pain of any problems during the big snowmelt in the spring.

Here are a few key steps to take in the fall to get your roof and home ready for the frigid temps and heavy snowfall that Wisconsin and other parts of the country experience each winter.

Clean Out Your Gutters and Downspouts

The first thing you need to do is clean out your gutters and downspouts to get ready to drain off the spring thaw. In the summer and fall, sticks, debris, whirligigs, and tons of leaves can fall and fill your gutters, clogging them up.

When your gutters are full, they obviously can’t flow freely. And when that big spring thaw comes, all of the snow and ice melting off your roof has nowhere to go. And when that water has nowhere to go, it can flow back into your roof and attic through weak spots in your shingles or drip edge.

It’s vital to ensure your gutters and downspouts are free and clear of any leaves or debris before the first big snowfall. You’ll be so happy you did, so those melting days don’t cause a big mess both in and outside of your home.

cleaning gutters before winter roofing

Clear Any Debris From Your Roof’s Surface

Even if you are not directly under a tree, those late summer storms can bring a lot of mess down on your roof, which can eventually wash into your gutters and downspouts, clogging them throughout the winter and causing ice dams. So, make sure the roof is clear of debris so water can flow freely when that snow starts to melt.

Debris on your roof can also be an indicator of shingle damage. This is because any large debris that has fallen on your roof may have done so during a wind or thunderstorm, and big branches can actually cause granule loss on your shingles. When your shingles lose their granules, they lose their first line of defense. So while you’re cleaning off that debris from your roof, also keep a keen eye on your shingles for any minor signs of damage.

Worker cleaning off debris on roof before winter roofing

Inspect Your Roof for Cracked, Loose, or Missing Shingles

Giving your roof one final visual inspection to catch any leak-causing flaws or other damage can save you the pain of water leaks come spring. Look for cracked or loose shingles or any loose nail heads sticking up. Those nail heads, if left unattended, could lead to loose shingles or act as a snag for debris and not allow it to wash off the roof.

loose and missing shingles

Repair or Replace Your Roof’s Flashing if Needed

Your roof’s flashing is vital to preventing leaks in the peaks and valleys of your roof. It’s also often one of the first things to need replacing, and staying on top of repairs can save you a ton of time and money from leaks due to failed flashing. So, if you are already cleaning off the roof and winterizing your home, this could be an excellent opportunity to inspect and repair or replace step or valley flashing.

Check your flashing along points where the roof meets an exterior wall or corners of the roof, especially around the chimney and any odd angles, to avoid leaks from the heavy snow and allow it to flow down the flashing properly.

roofer installing roof flashing before winter roofing

Check Your Home’s Interior for Signs of Leaks (And Repair Them Right Away!)

If you notice stains on your ceiling, chances are you may have a leak in your roof. However, it’s not necessarily roof-related if you notice these new stains during the winter. Typically, if there is a leak like that in the dead of winter, the issue is related to poor insulation causing condensation build up in the attic.

If you do find yourself with an issue like this in the winter, give us a call. We are well-versed in home performance and how your entire home should work cohesively to prevent issues like this. But catching these spots before the first snow works in your favor because it’s not only easier for a professional to repair during the fall months but ensures you’re set for winter weather and spring thaw ahead of time.

repair signs of interior water damage before winter roofing

Check Your Attic’s Ventilation (and Insulation)

Some homeowners are completely unaware that the attic’s performance is directly linked to roof ventilation and insulation. So much so that a large majority of homes are actually under-insulated, without even knowing it.

Signs of a poorly insulated or ventilated roof/attic include:

If the attic is inadequately insulated or ventilated, it will expose the roof to cold winter weather conditions. This can drive up heating costs as it tries to keep the house warm while that warm air leaks from your roof. It also leaves your home susceptible to water damage from accumulated moisture.

Therefore, it’s critical to maintain a constant airflow in your attic space to adequately heat and cool the area and keep conditions temperature controlled. This can be done with exhaust and intake vents appropriately installed in your attic.

How to Maintain Your Roof During the Winter Months

Just because you followed all of the critical steps to prep your roof and gutters for the winter doesn’t mean the maintenance stops for the next few months. Winter maintenance is also key to ensuring your home and roof stay safe from leaks and damage, especially if you experience heavy snowfall. Here are a few things you can do to maintain your roof during the winter months.

Remove Snow Using a Roof Rake

Heavy snow can put a lot of weight on your roof’s drip edge and gutters. It can also lead to massive ice dams forming. So, removing heavy snow from your roof can help alleviate any pressure on your roof and keep you and your family safe from any mini avalanches that can injure passersby.

To safely remove snow from your roof, you should either A) use the proper tools such as a roof rake or shovel or B) hire a professional snow removal team to prevent injuring yourself or damaging your roof. We highly recommend the latter.

man removing snow from his winter roofing home with a snow rake

Hire a Professional Team for Ice Dam Removal

In addition to snow removal, you may also hire a team to remove any ice dams or large icicles from your roof. Despite all of your winter prep, it’s possible they still happen, and they can be both damaging and dangerous for anyone walking by.

Never try to knock down ice dams on your own. This is not only dangerous, but you also risk damaging your gutters or shingles as they can come down with the ice dams. First American Roofing can safely remove your ice dams using hot steam, ensuring safe, damage-free removal.

ice dam to be removed by professional team during winter roofing

Add More Insulation to Your Attic

If you still notice higher-than-normal heating bills, feel cold drafts near your attic, or notice more ice build-up than usual, you may want to re-insulate the attic. Of course, it’s always best to insulate before the winter, but you can still add some, at least temporarily, to get you through until spring. First American Roofing can come to do a whole home performance test and pinpoint the issue. Then we can insulate your attic to improve heating and cooling and ensure proper home performance.

man installing attic insulation during winter roofing

Other Tips for Prepping Your Home and Roof for the Winter Months

The roof is just one part of your home and one aspect that needs to be prepared and vetted for oncoming cold weather. You should also ensure your exterior walls have proper insulation, windows and doors are sealed, and your basement or crawl spaces have adequate insulation as well.

Looking at your home as a whole when referring to performance can help support your roof and attic by keeping heat inside and cold outside. Many professional roofers, including First American Roofing and Siding, can do a blower door test to determine any weak spots or air leaks in your home. Air sealing your attic and home is another vital part of keeping your home’s performance up and helps ensure the proper winterization of your home in its entirety.

Snowy house during winter roofing

Hiring a Reputable Contractor to Help With Winter Roof Prep

We want to say that you should always call a professional for any roofing issues, especially if you feel uncomfortable inspecting yourself. We want everyone to be safe and smart when it comes to doing anything with their homes, especially on the roof. So we are happy to come out to your property and help you inspect your roof and anything else around the property before and during winter.

We are passionate about home performance and know the importance of every system in your home working properly for any of it to work at all. So, stay warm this winter and watch out for inefficient windows, heating, or ventilation. Located in Holmen, Wisconsin, First American Roofing is here to help. Contact us today for a FREE estimate.