How Freezing Temperatures Damage Roofs — Inspections Matter!

(UPDATED) Freezing temperatures damage roofs. And even though snow is pretty rare in metro Atlanta, temperatures often dip to below freezing overnight — and sometimes stay there for a while. Inspections and seasonal roof repairs are necessary to get the best performance out of your roof and improve its longevity.

Here’s what to do:

Step 1: Understand what freezing temperatures can do to your roofing system

When a leak or another water-related issue is already present on your roof, freezing temperatures can make it worse. During a freeze, water expands so the water that’s inside a crack (including a hairline crack) will expand and expand the crack. At the same time, some roofing materials contract in freezing temperatures, exacerbating the problem.

Pooling on your roof is a problem during freezing temperatures as well. If your drains are clogged or if you have any areas on your roof where water is not draining properly, ice can form and stick around. Thicker ice takes longer to melt.

The most detrimental effects from ice can actually occur when it’s wet outside and temperatures are hovering right around freezing. When the temperature is above freezing during the day but dips below freezing at night, the repeated cycle of expanding and contracting water is a recipe for growing cracks and damaging seals. This can be a common weather pattern in the southeast. Older roofing systems are more susceptible to this kind of damage.

In addition, if your roofing system is in a warmer climate it may not have been built to withstand extreme temperature changes or the additional weight from unexpected snow.

Step 2: Identify any problems and fix small issues on the spot

Have a qualified commercial roofing professional inspect your property every fall. Your fall service should include (at minimum) debris removal, drainage system clearing, complete inspection of your roofing system materials, and inspection of all roof penetrations. In particular, your inspector should look for any issues with cracks, crevices and seals. He or she should address any problems immediately before the temperatures drop — they’ll only be more expensive to fix later. And the last thing you need is water inside your building. Ask your inspector for photos of any completed work and any areas of your roof you should monitor.

In the spring have your roof inspected again and to look for mold and mildew as temperatures rise again.

Step 3: Develop a seasonal roof management plan

Neglecting your roof regardless of the season is not a strategy that pays off. Establishing a relationship with a roofing contractor who understands how freezing temperatures damage roofs is a much better strategy.

Ideally, the same experienced inspector will inspect your roof at least twice a year. Each visit adds to the knowledge base about your unique roofing system and how it’s performing. You’ll be best served by getting advice from a pro who knows your roofing system well and partners with you on a roof management plan that matches your goals for the property. Put that plan in writing, put maintenance visits on your schedule, and help your roof weather this coming winter and each following season.

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