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Winter Snow and Spring Storms Cause Jump in Roof Repairs

by Marcus Pickett

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To many homeowners, it's not news that winter snow and spring storms combine to create the dangerous time of year for residential roofing systems. However, it's important not to neglect this critical item of spring home maintenance. That said, the jump in roof repairs during the spring and early summer is far from evenly distributed across different roofing materials in the industry. Understanding how prevalent repairs are for various materials and the likely cause for the escalation will help you prepare both logistically and financially for the high tide of roof repairs.

How Winter and Spring Cause and Conceal Roof Damage
Poor roof ventilation creates ice dams—formed from snow that melts and refreezes near your gutters—that can cause snowmelt to infiltrate subroofing, siding, and basement areas. Unfortunately, snow pack can camouflages signs of roof damage to most homeowners. Even homes with proper roof ventilation are far from immune to roof repairs in the springtime. Volatile storms—which bring hail, high winds and debris, and the contraction and expansion of roofing materials associated with temperature swings—frequently add a second onslaught of damage to distressed roofing systems.

Regardless of the season, roof repairs and maintenance should be left to the pros. In fact, without visible signs of damage, snow-covered roofs should be left to their own devices until spring. "Homeowners who attempt to clear heavy snow or ice dams by themselves risk serious injury and may damage the roof," says University of Minnesota Extension housing expert Richard Stone. "If there is not ice build-up at the edges, it may be alright to leave the snow on the roof, and trust that the roof can support the load. Roofs, like the rest of the home, should have been designed to withstand expected snow loads."

How Specific Roofing Materials Fare

Asphalt Roofing: An economical roofing material, the cost of future repairs should be factored in and prepared for when installing an asphalt roofing system. By far, the most susceptible to both snow and spring storms, it's no surprise that this roofing sees a 95.6 percent jump in online requests during the spring. HomeAdvisor also sees requests for asphalt roofing replacement triple during the spring, the largest jump of any roofing material.

Metal Roofing: With the reputation of metal roofing's ability to handle and shed load-bearing snow, it might seem surprising that metal roofing repair jumps 82.9 percent in the spring. Rather than winter snow, spring itself is often the biggest danger to metal roofing. Metal roofing sheets are susceptible to the thermal shock that can occur with volatile spring temperatures. Meanwhile, older lines of metal roofing may not have the strength, thickness, or protective coatings to protect against scratching and denting associated with hailstorms.

Traditional Tile Roofing: Arguably, the strongest, most durable roofing systems available, HomeAdvisor sees only a meager 4.3 percent jump for repair requests for traditional tile during the spring. Whether you have concrete or tile roofing, the heavy weight of traditional tile combined with extensive support structures create roofing that holds up extremely well to both winter and spring climatic forces—in both colder and warmer climates.

Natural Slate Roofing: Along with traditional tile, natural slate roofing is considered among the most durable, high-end roofing on the market, but there's a huge difference between durability and maintenance needs. During the spring, natural slate roofing repairs jump 93.6 percent. Natural slate is incredibly strong, but also incredibly brittle and, thus, susceptible to cracks from hail or strong winds and debris. Most often, natural slate roof repairs require only that individually damaged tiles be replaced.

Rubber Roofs: Among the newest roofing materials, rubber roofing is light-weight and especially resistant to hail and fire damage. For handling weather, it tends to be a mixed bag, able to withstand extreme temperatures, but also vulnerable to the thermal shock of quick temperature swings. Its recent emergence into the roofing market means the 33.5 percent jump currently seen during spring months may be unreliable: As newer systems eliminate flaws and more roofing contractors become experienced with its installation, rubber roofs should become more resistant to seasonal damage.

Universal Maintenance and Preparation
No matter what type of roofing your home has, it's important to realize that up to 90 percent of all roof repairs occur due to improper installation and defective flashings. If at all possible, spring is the time to complete a professional roof inspection that will help identify problem areas and provide you with a comprehensive assessment of your roof's condition. At the very least, keep a close watch for both exterior signs (cracks, tears, uneven shingles, etc.) and interior signs (water spots on ceilings, smell of mold, pests) that roofing damage has occurred.

Marcus Pickett is a professional freelance writer for the home remodeling industry. He has published more than 600 articles on both regional and national topics within the home improvement industry.