5 Winter Roof Problems to Watch for This Season

winter house with snow on roof

Common roof issues that plague all homeowners can be made much worse by the constant freezing and thawing of winter activity. And while it can be hazardous to handle roofing problems during the winter, waiting until spring can make the existing problem worse.

Keep a watchful eye for these issues and tackle them before the depths of winter set in.

1. Ice Dams

ice dam on metal roof

It’s best to prepare for ice dams during the summer or fall. One of the best ways to proactively prevent ice dams during the winter is to clean out your gutters.

Ice dams can be potentially destructive to your roof system when weather conditions are right. They can cause gutters to give way, damage shingles, and moisture penetration to occur. Ice dams can also lead to water stains within the home, near exterior walls, and on ceilings.

Cleaning out your gutters in the fall is a great first line of defense. Secondly, determine if your attic is properly insulated and has adequate ventilation.

Once winter arrives, you should use a roof rake to remove excessive amounts of snow. If you live in an area with heavy snowfall, another suitable prevention method is installing heating coils.


2. Icicles

icicles hanging from roof

Icicles are like a warning that conditions are ripe for heavy icicles and ice dams to form, both of which wreak havoc on your gutters and roof.

More seriously, however, ice dams can lead to serious injury if they happen to fall on someone.

Once you notice large amounts of icicles forming on your roof, there is a high chance of an ice dam forming, as melting snow runs down the roof and refreezes at the roof’s edge.

A sure giveaway that your attic has ventilation issues is uneven snow melting on your roof. Areas with poor insulation have more heat loss and melt faster. Watch your roof for these signs, and act quickly to prevent roof damage.

Like ice dams, you need to make sure your attic is properly insulated. Check to stop air leaking through heat ducts, attic doors, recessed lights, and electrical penetrations.

3. Tree Limbs

removing tree that's crashed on roof

Large trees provide great scenery and added property value, but during the winter, large trees can pose some serious problems. Tree limbs hanging over the roof can become burdened with large amounts of snow or ice and damage the roof’s protective top layer.

Branches that fall onto your roof can cause serious problems. Fallen branches trap large amounts of snow, allow for pooled water, and scrape away the roof's protective layer.

In order to prevent detrimental damage, it’s a good idea to check and see that your roof is clear of any overhanging branches during the fall.

A good rule of thumb is to make sure your roof has a 10-foot radius that’s clear of any branches.

Go around your yard and inspect trees for:

  • signs of rot and decay
  • dead limbs
  • snapped and hanging branches
  • large branches close to the roof
Give yourself peace of mind by clearing these tree branches away well ahead of the incoming snow. You'll remove a serious threat and protect your roof throughout the winter. If you feel uncomfortable climbing on top of your roof to remove tree branches or other debris, contact an experienced roofing contractor for a safe solution.

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4. Condensation

roof ventilaiton diagram

If every winter, you’re noticing icicles and/or ice dams, you’re most likely dealing with condensation problems, which is caused by inadequate ventilation.

The main step to remedying condensation issues is to ensure your home has proper ventilation.

The goal is to draw warm, humid air out of the attic while replacing it with cooler, drier air. Doing so reduces the humidity levels in the attic, reducing the amount of moisture damage to the underside of the roof.

This is typically accomplished with exhaust and intake vents. Exhaust vents are located in or on top of the attic and help warm air flow out from the roof. They include ridge vents, roof turbines, and gable vents. Intake vents assist in drawing cooler air through the soffit, eaves, or even the foundation.

Managing the amount of moisture created within your home is crucial. Double check vents, including dryers, bathroom fans, fireplaces, and dehumidifiers to ensure excess moisture has a clear path to escape properly.

Besides installing proper insulation and clearing vent pathways for bathrooms and kitchens, most homeowners can’t determine other problematic causes for serious condensation buildup. To make the final step, we recommend hiring a professional to provide advice on a comprehensive solution.


5. Excessive Weight

Most homes are not in serious danger of snow-induced failure, but consistent heavy snowfall can still be an issue under unique circumstances, especially in northern climates.

Ice weighs much more per inch than even heavy, wet snow, so if you notice ice building up on the roof it’s important to remove it as soon as possible.

According to the FEMA Snow Load Safety Guide, structural failure due to heavy snow loads can be linked to several possible causes. Some of the most common include significant snowfall that exceeds the roof’s design, deficient workmanship, inadequate drainage, and snow drifting.

To avoid serious structural damage, look for the following signs of stress:

  • Doors and windows that no longer open or close
  • Sagging ceiling tiles
  • Cracks in walls or ceilings
  • Severe roof leaks
  • Sunken in sections of the roof

If you notice any of these signs, you should contact a professional roofing contractor or structural engineer to take a look at your roof.

Hire a professional roofing contractor

Removing snow and ice from a roof is a dangerous practice. That's why we recommend hiring a professional contractor with experience if you notice winter roofing problems.

An experienced contractor will be able to successfully remove ice dams, built-up snow, icicles, and diagnose ventilation problems. 

Before you choose a contractor, ask specific questions about their winter experience, the equipment they use, and for proof of insurance. 

Hometown Roofing Contractors makes it easy to find the best local roofing contractor for the job. Read through company profiles, check out what other customers have to say about their services, and request quotes from as many roofers as you want.

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