Is Your Roof Ready for Winter?
It appears that fall has finally arrived in Colorado. With these lower temperatures, though, and with the hint of winter on the horizon, most business owners and decision makers tend to curtail their repair and maintenance efforts, thinking that it's best to put them off until next spring when conditions are more conducive. When it comes to your roof, however, that's definitely not the best approach.
Since winter can be very hard on your roof, it is important to make sure your roof is ready to handle the extremes common to our winter climate. "Is my roof ready for winter?" "How do I know if my roof is ready?" These are good questions, and to answer them it is important to understand how the snow, ice, and fluctuating temperatures of a Colorado winter work together.
A typical scenario is that a front moves through overnight and drops an inch or two of snow on your roof. Then, the following day, temperatures get into the 60's. What do you think happens to that snow? That's right, it melts. Depending upon the amount of snow and the degree to which the temperature rises - no pun intended – this melting process can be very slow. Unlike rain, which sheet flows across the roof deck and is better able to drain off of the roof, melting snow and ice tends to take a lot longer to completely drain away. (See the End Note: "A Word or Two About Proper Drainage")
So the rising temperature during the day melts the snow, which starts to make its way to the internal roof drains or parapet wall scuppers. But before all the snowmelt can drain off of the roof, the shortened daylight hours and dropping temperatures close in again, at which time the snowmelt re-freezes. What happens to water when it freezes? Right again! It expands. Why is that such a big deal?
It's a big deal if your roof has failing seams, cuts, abrasions, or holes. Under normal conditions your roof has to deal with some or all of the following:
- UV Rays
- Blowing Debris (that can scar or puncture your roof)
- Cuts, abrasions, or holes
- Foot Traffic
- 3rd Party Contractor Damage (from dropped tools, cigarette burns, etc.)
The list could go on. But all of these things work against the integrity of your roof. Even the best roof that is installed by the most competent installation team and under the best of environmental conditions will eventually fail. The roofing material will eventually break down, making it even more susceptible to the onslaught of the weather and the other issues mentioned above. Eventually (and often sooner rather than later) your roof will develop failing seams, cuts, abrasions, and holes. Now couple that with the freeze-thaw cycle, and you have a recipe for an exponentially deteriorating roof. Here's how...
At first, the snowmelt or rain will get into those relatively small areas of failing seams, cuts, abrasions, or holes. Then when that snowmelt or rain freezes, it expands, causing those relatively small areas of failing seams, cuts, abrasions, or holes to get bigger. Then that ice thaws again and occupies the now bigger areas of failing sThe freeze-thaw cycle is very damaging to roofs. Continuing the cycle, when that water freezes again it expands again and will cause those problem areas to get even bigger. This cycle can literally go on and on until either the moisture goes away, the temperature rises and constantly stays above the freezing mark, or until your roof completely fails.
A good maintenance and repair program is essential to address these problems before the ravages of winter claim the life of your roof and the problems get out of control. We are big advocates of preventative maintenance. Being proactive can really mean the difference between having to repair small, minor items to having a failed roof that requires a very expensive tear-off and replacement. (Not to mention any interior or structural damage that is caused as a result.) This is a real possibility and we've seen it cost building owners tens of thousands of dollars more than it needed to simply because they waited too long to address the problems that did exist. Often they didn't know about the problems because with a roof it is often out of sight, out of mind. Only once a roof leak has developed does it become obvious that there is a problem. But by the time the roof leak manifests itself, it is usually just the tip of an expensive iceberg to address. Often a roof leak betrays a problem that has existed for a long time.
What Is Winterization?
Winterization is the term used to describe how something is "prepared" to withstand winter conditions. When it comes to your roof, however, failing to winterize could literally mean thousands of extra, very real dollars coming out of your pocket to pay for a small problem that was allowed to turn into a bigger one during the winter.
The key is getting your roof inspected before a problem develops inside your building. Another key is making those inspections at strategic times. Certainly after a storm it would be a reasonable time to have your roof inspected. But another perfect time is prior to the arrival of winter. Since the winter can be so hard on your roof, it is imperative that any minor problem areas are addressed so that the damaging freeze-thaw cycle has little to no areas to exploit. How can we help? I'm glad you asked.
RTN Roofing Systems provides comprehensive repair and maintenance programs, some developed specifically for preparing roofs for winter. We call them winterization services.
- Our winterization services include:
- Thoroughly inspecting your roof surface, with special attention being paid to seams, roof penetrations, parapets, drains, scuppers, caulk joints, etc.
- Repairing any defects found that could present an immediate problem, and documenting all other issues of concern for future consideration.
- Clearing debris from gutters, scuppers, and drains.
- Providing a written report with an analysis of your roof's conditions, expected life span, and a budget forecast.
This focused, no-nonsense approach is the best, most reasonable way to make sure that your roof is ready for winter. Give RTN Roofing Systems a call at 970-593-1100 and schedule for your commercial roof winterization service. It is a penny of prevention that can save you from having to spend a pound on a cure.
A Word or Two About Proper Drainage
A roof's drainage design is critical. Without it, even rain may take a long time to exit a roof, sometimes only doing so after evaporation has taken place. The building code prohibits ponding water, which is generally accepted as meaning any liquid water that remains on a roof after 48 hours of ambient temperature at or above about 72 degrees Fahrenheit. An inadequate drainage design will exacerbate the problems associated with the freeze-thaw cycle described in this article.