Avoid letting freezing temperatures, snow, and ice severely damage your low-slope (flat) roof in winter. Knowing how to protect your flat roofing system during the winter months will help extend its lifespan and avoid costly repairs.
New Image Roofing Atlanta gathered information on how your commercial or residential low-slope roofing system is vulnerable to winter weather, the actions you can take to protect it, and when you should call your roofer.
Low-Slope Roofing System Vulnerabilities
Low-slope or flat roofing systems (TPO, PVC, EPDM, BUR, Duro-last) are inherently more susceptible to issues during freezing weather. Unlike steep-slope roofs that allow snow and ice to naturally shed, low-slope roofs can accumulate snow and ice, creating potential hazards. Here are some vulnerabilities that low-slope roofing systems face:
Ice Dams – Low-slope roofs are prone to the formation of ice dams, where melting ice or snow refreezes at the roof’s edge. This can trap water and lead to leaks, potentially causing damage to the roofing materials and the underlying structure.
Snow Accumulation – Low-slope roofs may struggle to shed snow effectively, leading to heavy snow load accumulation. Excessive snow buildup can exert significant pressure on the roof structure, posing structural damage risks or collapse.
Condensation Issues – Low-slope roofs may experience condensation issues during a freeze (especially with inadequate ventilation). Condensation can contribute to ice dam formation, compromising roof material integrity.
Brittle Roofing Materials – Cold temperatures can make roofing materials more brittle and prone to damage. Low-slope roofs may be more susceptible to cracking, breaking, and other issues caused by material contraction and expansion during freeze-thaw cycles.
Protecting Low-Slope Roofing Systems in Winter
Even though winter weather may pose multiple challenges, you can take measures to minimize roofing emergency risks before they slow your business down. Consider the following:
Regular Inspections – Schedule regular low-slope roof inspections before winter sets in. Identify and address any existing issues like:
- Damaged or deteriorating roofing materials
- Flashing problems
- Potential drainage issues
Ensure Proper Drainage – Adequate drainage is crucial for low-slope roofs. Clear debris from drains, gutters, and scuppers to ensure unobstructed water flow. Proper drainage helps prevent water ponding and reduces ice dam formation risks.
Roof Insulation and Ventilation – Enhance insulation in the roof structure to minimize heat loss and reduce ice dam formation likelihood. Ensure proper ventilation to maintain a consistent temperature and minimize condensation issues.
Install Ice and Water Shields – Consider installing ice and water shields along the eaves and critical areas of your low-slope roof. These shields provide an additional protective layer against ice dam formation and water infiltration during freezing conditions.
Snow Removal – Safely remove accumulated snow from your low-slope roof using snow removal tools, like snow rakes. This helps prevent excessive snow loads and reduces structural damage risks.
Use Heated Roofing Systems – For extreme cold environments, consider installing heated roofing systems to prevent ice dam formation. These systems use heating elements to melt snow and ice, promoting safe and efficient drainage.
Apply Reflective Coatings – Reflective coatings can be applied to low-slope roofs to reduce heat absorption from the sun. This helps prevent ice dam formation and protects roofing materials from the damaging prolonged effects of ultraviolet (UV) radiation.
Prevent Foot Traffic – Keep any rooftop foot traffic to a minimum. Walking on a frozen membrane can cause breaks and tears, resulting in leaks when the roof thaws.
Tip: Maintain a Roof Maintenance Plan with annual inspections to identify potential issues before they develop into costly damages.
When to Call Your Roofer
Ideally, low-slope roofing systems should be inspected and maintained throughout the year and after severe weather events. However, when the following issues appear, they should be immediately addressed:
Persistent Ice Dam Issues – When ice dams persist despite your efforts, call a roofer. Roofing professionals can assess the situation, identify the underlying causes, and implement effective solutions.
Structural Concerns – If you notice structural damage signs or are concerned about accumulated snow weight on your low-slope roof, consult with a roofer. Structural issues should be addressed promptly to prevent further damage.
Water Leaks Inside the Building – Water leaks inside your building during winter are urgent issues that require immediate attention. If you notice water stains on ceilings or walls, contact your roofer to identify and address any leaks.
Roofing Material Damage – If roofing materials on your low-slope roof show signs of damage like cracking, breaking, or unusual stretching, consult your roofer. Damaged materials compromise a roofing system’s effectiveness and should be addressed promptly.
Emergency Repairs – During emergencies, like sudden leaks or extreme cold damage, don’t hesitate to call your roofer for emergency repairs. Prompt action can minimize damage and prevent further issues.
Winter Protection for Low-Slope Roofing
In this article, you discovered how low-slope roofing systems can be vulnerable to extreme winter weather, how to protect them, and when to call a professional commercial roofer.
Keeping up with roof maintenance and calling your roofer when issues arise will help your commercial or residential low-slope roofing system reach or surpass its intended lifespan.
Ignoring required roof maintenance and roof damage signs will leave you with potentially severe structural damage and costly repairs.
Atlanta, GA 30318