Check your roof for winter damage

By Tom Phelan - ReminderNews
Feature Article - posted Thu., Apr. 14, 2011
- Contributed Photo

Many roofs in our area took a beating this winter from the heavy snowfalls that came too close together, followed by the subsequent freeze and thawing cycles. On large roofs with little slope, the unusually heavy weight may even have caused some structural stress. The impact of that stress might have shown up as separations along joints of ceilings and walls.

Damage on the roof itself is more likely. Joints in valleys and along ridges, flashing around chimneys and vent pipes might have separated just enough to allow water from melting snow and ice to penetrate. Shingles might have been raised or cracked by ice expanding under them. You might even have caused some damage in your attempts to clear snow from the roof and ice dams from above and on the gutters.

Your home may show no visible signs of water damage inside. There might have been no damage at all. But now that the weather is warming, a thorough inspection of your home’s roof should set your mind at ease, if not identify conditions that need attention.

If you are afraid of ladders and heights, have the inspection done by a competent contractor. If you are agile and stable enough to take the job on yourself, inspection is pretty easy, and many repairs are well within the scope of the do-it-yourself project.

A roof covered with asphalt shingles should last 20 years or more. But the water, snow and ice like we suffered with this winter will tax the otherwise durable composition. Look for shingles that have cupped or buckled. If the roof is old, you might also see broken edges or depletion of the granular surface.

Water seeks the point of least resistance, and yields to gravity. It might enter near the chimney, and follow rafters and joists halfway across the house. Certain points are prone to leaks, especially vent pipes and chimneys. 

Start looking for signs of water on the inside of your home. If you have an attic or even a crawl space between your ceilings and the roof, look for dampness or stains from water that has already dried up. Wet or damp spots on ceilings are obvious indications you have a problem. But streaks or discoloration on sheathing or rafters tell a tale, too. 

If you suspect the source of a leak, take measurements to the closest points of reference, such as the chimney, dormer, vent pipe, etc. Then check the outside surface by using those measurements to find the suspect area.

Brush up on ladder safety before you start to climb. You may need more than one ladder, too. You’ll probably need a utility knife with a hooked blade. Roofing nails are available in aluminum or hot dipped galvanized steel. For aluminum flashing, use aluminum nails. For galvanized flashing, use aluminum nails with a rubber gasket. A flat pry bar and a caulking gun with a tube or two of roofing cement should complete the kit.

Fill any cracks along the flashing. Shingles that have popped up will lay down again by pushing roofing cement under the buckled part, and pressing the shingle down until it adheres to the roof. If only one or two shingles are damaged, reattach them with roofing cement. If an entire width of shingle needs to be replaced, carefully remove the damaged one, using a flat pry bar to pull out any remaining nails. Run a bead of roofing cement along the top of the backside, and lift the shingles immediately above the area being replaced, inserting the shingle to align with the row. Then nail the new shingle in place by lifting up the tabs of the one above it.

A good inspection and maybe a few simple repairs will bring a lot of peace of mind.


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