Free Issue! Try Saltscapes Magazine before you buy. Download Now

Check that roof over your head before real damage is done

It’s getting to be that time again—but while we begin to dig out the toques and boots, there are a number of things we can do to prepare the roof for winter, in order to avoid or minimize repairs in the spring.

The first, and most important, measure is to have the roof inspected. This is imperative if you are new to your home, or if your roof is starting to near the end of its life. An inspection can be an investment in cost savings. Our freeze-thaw cycles are tough on construction generally.

But we also suggest a roof inspection on newly constructed homes, prefabricated homes or any situation where you don’t know which roofing company did the installation. There is a lot less money in roofing new construction compared to replacement, so often the quality of work is not at the level it should be. 

A standard recommendation is that you do not go on the roof yourself. It is simply dangerous without proper gear and training, and the accidents can have life-altering consequences.

A good professional inspector will check the entire roof for missing or damaged shingles, ridge cap, as well as flashing. The shingles and ridge cap should be checked to make sure they are sealed down properly. Every roof penetration and flashing details should be inspected for damage. This is important because the flashing around plumbing stacks, skylights or vents may have cracks or wear and tear, which can eventually lead to much more serious problems after a winter assault

An inspector should examine the roof completely for missing or damaged shingles, ridge cap, or flashing.

When investigating the overall functionality of a roof, it is important to consider all factors that contribute to your roofing system, not just the roof itself. Two commonly overlooked are insulation and ventilation. Without proper insulation and ventilation, the entire roof can be compromised. Although there may have been no signs of trouble with your roof during the warmer months, the harsh nature of winter and its frequent temperature fluctuations can bring on an entirely new set of problems

It may appear that your house has ventilation installed, but it’s necessary to confirm that it is functioning properly. If you cannot confirm that your ventilation is sufficient and working optimally, you should have it inspected.

We see many homes that, from the exterior, appear to have ventilation in the form of ridge vents and in-roof vents—however, it’s shocking how often we go into the attic and find incorrect insulation installation with insufficient vent size or no vent at all.

One telltale sign of a problem for most roofs is the attic temperature.

In an ideal attic space, the temperature of the attic should be the same as the temperature outside. If your attic is really warm, then you may have a problem with your ventilation or insulation.

And having a warm attic is one of the main causes of ice dam formation. After the winter we had three years ago, many of you are probably familiar with ice dams, as you may have experienced major leaks that can occur mid winter.

For those who may be unfamiliar, ice dams are a build up of snow and ice that can prevent water from running off of a roof. When snow and ice begin to melt on a warm roof, a pool of water is formed. This pool is blocked by the ice dam at the cold roof edges, and when the pool accumulates, it can leak through the roof decking via nail holes, screw holes, or any other apertures found. Once water has penetrated through roof decking, homeowners run the risk of a number of problems such as wall and ceiling damage, rot, mould and electrical issues.

It’s a good idea to get an inspection done sooner rather than later. As we get closer to the snow falling, most roofing companies are completely swamped with all the last minute clients trying to get necessary work done before winter. Costs increase for inspections, and the chance of finding an available, reputable roofer will decline.

Likewise, if you do need a repair, the cost of repairs in January can be twice the cost to do that same repair in September. The old saying “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure” directly applies to your roof. Fifteen minutes and a five dollar tub of tar could save you hundreds of dollars. The minimal cost of getting a professional to inspect your roof is the best way to scout out current or future issues.

Ian Armour is the owner of Refined Roofing, in Halifax.

Other Stories You May Enjoy

The Two-Armed Paperhanger

Banish those disagreeable memories of grandma's kitsch, kitchen roses; aunt Matilda's priggish, Victorian hallway treatment; or cousin Jamie's far-out, metallic bachelor pad.

The New Sunroof

Thanks to a frustrated mechanic in Newfoundland, heating your home has just become less costly and more environmentally friendly. "I was paying diesel rate for electric heat," says James Meaney.

Long & Lovely

For the past several years, I've been quietly crusading to take back the lawn. I'm rejecting the boring monoculture of turfgrass in favour of any number of other kinds of plants, mostly by edging...