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How to Winterize your Flat Roof

Winters are hard on roofs, especially because they come with the fall and spring freeze-thaw which is especially detrimental. Once the cold weather hits however, there are fewer options if your roof runs into problems.

The Problem with Winter Roofing

It is often assumed that the reason roofers don’t work much during the winter is undesirable working conditions, however that is not the case!

Roofing materials are made to be used and installed under certain conditions. Even pitched roofs rely on a certain amount of solar heat to melt the tar on the back of the shingles and seal them together. Flat roofing materials are much more temperature specific.

Flat roofing sealants and membranes come with specifications for application. If the weather isn’t warm enough, the membrane may not lay properly resulting in kinks and waves in the final product.

Sealants require a minimum temperature to cure and will simply not work if not given the proper conditions during install. Because of this it is important to prepare for the winter season, because most of the work that can be done during that time will only be emergency temporary measures.

Fall Inspection

One of the best things that you can do to protect your roof is to make sure to have a roof inspection done in the fall, leaving enough time for repairs before snow and ice set in and make repairs difficult.

The fall can be a busy time for flat roofers. People tend to fall into two categories; those who get things done in the spring and those who put things off to the fall. At times we get so busy later in the season, especially as weather becomes harder to work around, that we are unable to get to all the last minute jobs before winter weather sets in.

Despite the insistence of weather forecasters, no one can predict the weather. As the season advances make sure to call and schedule a fall inspection early to be sure that you have the time to get any required work done.

The inspection itself will do a lot of things to prepare your roof for winter weather. Here at Northern Seal you can expect a thorough and complete inspection consisting of the following. If you are having your roof inspected by another company it is best to check beforehand to make sure that all of these things will be covered in your inspection.

Checking Seals, Drainage and Edging

All roofs rely on the seals, drainage and edging. If any of these fail you will have leaks. Each seal of your roof will be inspected, small holes or areas of weakening will be patched and larger areas will be documented so that you can take adequate precautions.

Drainage will be checked to make sure that water can run off the roof as quickly as possible. Water on the roof in the winter is always more dangerous than in the summer because perpetual freeze-thaw is one of the leading causes of leaks. Edging will also be checked to make sure it follows correct flat roofing procedures and the products used are still functioning properly.

Removal of Debris and Clearing Drains

Debris buildup on the roof often leads to clogged drains and standing water. Ensuring that debris are removed in the fall, especially if there are many larger trees around the building which can cause leaf buildup, means that your drainage system will work properly and allow water to leave your roof quickly. This is one of the most important things in winter preparation.

Minor Caulking and Sealant Repair

While the caulking and sealant used on roofs is industrial grade, harsh weather and UV rays from the sun cause it to fail faster than the roofing membrane itself. During a roof inspection all of the caulking and sealant is inspected and replaced if necessary to ensure the continued performance of your roofing seals.

Minor Membrane Repair

While not usually a problem for a roof that hasn’t been touched, falling objects, weather, human traffic and other contractors sometimes harm roofing membrane.

Any people involved might not even be aware of the damage but a during a flat roof inspection we look specifically for any area that has sustained damage. Small patches are taken care of immediately, while any larger concerns are documented with repair recommendations for your consideration.

Written Report

A written report including any applicable pictures or video will be submitted to you, giving you an understanding of the current situation of your roof, any repairs performed or recommended. This will give you peace of mind that your roof is in good condition to face the coming temperature fluctuations and extremes.

Winter Maintenance

Usually there is very little to do on a building during the winter. As said previously, repairs are only done in case of emergency because of the limitations of the roofing materials. Snow weight, when deemed an issue can necessitate removal in order to lighten the load of your roof, however most roofs are designed to be able to carry large amounts of snow without failure.

Freeze-thaw can create ice dams on the roof which can become problematic because they prevent water from exiting the roof and ponding water is never a good thing, especially during the winter.

Final Word

Getting ready for the winter should not be a process that causes you stress, but to be stress-free it needs to be done early enough that any necessary repairs are completed before cold weather sets in.

Be sure to remember that it isn’t just what conditions your roofer is willing to work in, but is more dependent on the conditions that the roofing materials will be able to be installed in.

Call Northern Seal today to schedule your roof inspection and discuss any concerns you have regarding winter maintenance!