Washington, D.C. averages 14.5 inches of snow every winter. Though that’s not as much as some other cities on the Eastern Seaboard (Boston averages 43.8 inches—yikes!), DMV homeowners know all too well the potential of a big storm dumping snow onto their roofs. And the challenge for these homeowners, winter after winter, is keeping that snow from leaking into their homes.
Snow in our region is unique in that we can get a few inches, and then it melts quickly. That can result in water on your roof that might not easily find its way to the gutters. Here are some tips to keep your roof leak-free this winter.
Know Your Roof
The type of roof above your house, as well as the structures (vents, skylights, chimneys, and so on) emanating from it, will all factor into how snow melts on your roof and where leaks could form. For example, a flat roof comes with drainage functionality that’s different from that of a sloped roof. However, many homeowners know surprisingly little about the architecture of their roofs, much less how to keep them leak-free during the winter. Although we don’t recommend walking on your roof too much (accidentally damaging shingles and other parts of the roofing system is easier than you think; plus, of course, we don’t want you to risk falling off your house), take a look from a ladder to see what’s up there—especially during winter.
Get an Inspection
Because you aren’t on your roof too often, you may not realize that shingles are missing or flashings have cracked. Furthermore, there could be problems that aren’t readily apparent to the untrained eye…until you discover water seeping into your house. If your roof hasn’t been inspected in some time, think about calling a top-notch roofing contractor to take a look. A professional inspection can identify issues that you won’t see from the safety of your ladder. Importantly, order this inspection before winter so that you can be confident that you will be keeping your roof leak-free before the snow starts falling.
Obviously, an inspection is an important step toward keeping your roof leak-free this winter, but other maintenance efforts will also help. Before the snow, ensure your roof is free of debris that may have landed on your house over the previous months. Prune any trees with branches resting upon or digging into your roof. Keep gutters and drains clean so that when snow does melt, a whole autumn full of leaves isn’t preventing water from escaping the roof. After a snowfall, look for ice dams (which have the potential to seep under flashing and damage tiles) and use a roof rake to safely remove snow from your roof. Finally, when spring comes, get up on the ladder again and see how your roof held up during the long winter.
Keeping your roof leak-free is important year-round, but it takes on added urgency in the winter. Roof repairs are more difficult in January, and the thought that the part of the house that is supposed to be protecting your family is broken at the harshest time of the year is beyond daunting. That said, if you do suspect or confirm a leak, call a professional roofing contractor right away to fix it. Water damage is no joke, and waiting to find the source of a leak can become expensive in a hurry. Furthermore, if water is seeping in, it can freeze on a cold night and damage your roof even more. The best defense against keeping your roof leak-free is a good offense—maintenance and inspections—and when that isn’t enough, don’t hesitate to call a professional to solve the problem.
Has your home suffered a roof leak during a past winter?