By SOPHIE HOTTINGER
Many think of winter as a time to focus on caring for the interior of the home. Homeowners vigilantly perform tasks such as sealing windows to minimize heat loss, keeping chimneys cleared and running water to ensure that pipes don’t burst. During this time, it’s often assumed that outdoor home maintenance, like most yard work, is on hiatus until the warmer months reappear.
But while mid-January may not be the ideal time to drag out the ladder and start on that new coat of paint, it is a crucial time of year to monitor the effects of cold, rain and winter weather on your home’s roof and gutter system. Steve Ramser, president of local roofing and guttering company Highland Roofing, urges homeowners to be on the lookout for evidence of leaks and gutter blockage.
“After a downpour, we’ll get a lot of leak calls,” Ramser explained. “After a heavy snow, melting and freezing at the eave and gutter can cause ice dams that can cause leaks. It’s helpful to remember that most residential roofing systems are not waterproof. If water is allowed to pool on shingle roof, it will find its way into your home or attic.”
A leak in the roof can lead to interior home damage such as stained ceilings and walls, rotting or weakened spots within the structure, mildew and various types of mold growth. It can also contribute to energy loss, and even increase the odds that additional leaks will form, pointed out Ramser. “If water is entering your attic, your insulation is getting wet and likely to be rendered ineffective. If you have insufficient insulation or ventilation in your attic, your roof is more likely to have ice dams after a heavy snow and freeze/thaw cycles.” As a result, a small leak that might have been fixed by simply replacing a few shingles or unclogging a gutter blockage, unaddressed can exponentially increase the amount of damage both to your home’s exterior and interior.
To ensure your roof continues to keep your family warm, dry and cozy during the winter months, Ramser advises taking a few simple steps. The first and easiest task is simply to be watchful for debris, whether it be on the roof or obstructing the gutter – especially after inclement weather. Leaves, branches and the water that can freeze after pooling around them, “can impede the free flow of water from the top of your roof to the ground and away from your home,” he noted. Even if one has installed gutter shields to reduce the accumulation of debris, Ramser advises thoroughly cleaning them out at least once a year, oftener if there are trees near your home.
It’s also important to regularly scan the inside of your house for water spots, so that they can be addressed before they cause significant damage to your home. “After a hard blowing rain, check every ceiling for any sign of a leak,” suggested Ramser. A quick look inside your attic after rain can also help you diagnose a leak, before it even makes its way to your ceiling.
Finally, be aware of your roof’s age and state – if it’s been around for a long time, chances are higher that a shingle may become loose, damaged or come off altogether during high winds or after freezing and thawing. This is an easy way to prevent problems before the next rain- or snowfall, mentioned Ramser. “It’s never a bad idea to have a professional look over your roof, but it doesn’t take a professional to see if something is missing on your roof.”
Following these simple steps now can help save your home – and your budget – from unnecessary damage in the long run.