Residential Roof Shingles: What to Know for Winter

Your home’s roof is definitely one of its most important elements. When your roof starts to go, then your whole house is literally at risk from water damage and other problems. These potential problems can be worsened during the winter when ice dams cause water and ice build ups. The good news is knowing a little bit about residential roof shingles can help you protect your roof.

Residential Roof Shingles & Ice Dam Problems

Two winters after I moved into my current home one of our neighbors had a severe ice dam problem on this roof. After a particularly heavy snow, part of the roof caved in and dumped snow all over his dining room. It was a disaster! But it was a preventable disaster.

If you’re not familiar with ice dams, they are those sections of ice which build up along the edges of the roof. The dams prevent water, melting ice, and even snow from falling off the roof so it builds up and can cause water to leak into the house or can even destroy parts of your roof.

We were lucky because the previous owners of our home had taken precautions against ice dams when the home was built. For example, an air barrier was added throughout the ceiling to keep air from leaking into the attic. Just as the air flowing under a bridge encourages freezing, so does the air moving in your attic directly under the roof. The owners were also smart enough not to add any skylights or fancy roofing elements to the home which would have made ice damming more likely.

If you weren’t that lucky, then call a contractor who specializes in winterizing homes and ask them to do some repairs to the house that will minimize your risks. Make sure to have these changes made in the autumn or earlier – no one wants to risk their life on a slick roof in the middle of winter.

Other Important Information about Residential Roof Shingles

Even if ice dams aren’t a problem, you may want to consider the condition of your roof before winter. After all, if it needs to be replaced, now would be a good time. Roof life expectancy varies, but the average is at least 20 years. Now you can add on a roof without removing the original roof in some circumstances, but you can only do that once before you have to remove everything and start over again which is, of course, more expensive.

You should also consider the type of roof you want. If you’re sticking with a shingled roof, then asphalt roof shingles or metal roof shingles are two options worth thinking about. Asphalt shingles come in organic and fiberglass varieties and usually warrantied for between 25 to 50 years. These types work best for cooler areas of the country. Metal roofs tend to cost more than asphalt, but they last longer and are more likely to prevent water pooling. Copper also increases energy efficiency because of its reflective nature. However, metal roofing materials can be harder to find in the United States.