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3 Tips for Inspecting a Roof During the Winter

Trevor Underwood • January 25, 2021

3 Tips for Inspecting a Roof During the Winter


While it’s common to inspect a roof during the spring and summer months, contractors and homeowners should also make time to assess roofing conditions when the weather turns cold. After all, winter oversights can lead to structural damage for some roofing products that may result in expensive repairs and replacements as the season wears on.

During the winter, roof inspections are essential for those purchasing a new property in colder areas, providing contractors with new opportunities to support a home's long-term goals and homeowners with more scheduling options. This means you want to be ready to know what to look for when evaluating a roof's condition if demand for inspections increases from December to February.

Below, we outline what you should look for when inspecting a roof during the winter, plus DECRA Metal Roofing materials to consider if a replacement is needed.

1. Look for Interior Leaks

An exterior visual inspection might not be possible due to snow or debris, so one of the very first things to look for when inspecting a roof is interior leaks.

Head to the attic or crawl space and look for obvious signs of leakage. Are there yellow or brown stains on the ceiling? What about wet spots in the attic? If the answer is yes, a leak in the roof is likely the issue. Often this happens because water from snow and ice accumulates and melts on a roof, creating moisture under the surface and leaking inside. Once you’ve found where the leak is coming from, you can simply repair it. A few of the things you’ll want to look for are:

  • Indications of mold or moisture.
  • Ventilation issues.
  • Wilted decking.
  • Cracks in roof sheathing.

Luckily, there are materials on the market that protect against winter weather better than others. Due to the interlocking nature of the panels, the durability of the metal, and the underlayment used underneath, metal roofing lowers the chance of water working its way into a home, so it becomes nearly impossible when installed properly.

The best part? Unlike asphalt shingles, clay tiles, and wood shakes, DECRA roofing products don’t become brittle when exposed to extreme cold, making them an easier option to fix if you encounter an interior leak.

2. Look for Where Snow Accumulates and Ice Dams Surface

During the winter months, snow is bound to accumulate on a roof in colder climates no matter the material. However, too much snow can add stress to any structure, so it’s important to note where accumulation happens in your inspection.

You’ll also want to look for ice dams or a ridge of ice that forms at the roof’s eave, which prevents snow from properly draining. Any excess water backing up behind the dam can also cause interior leaks or form icicles in front of the dam, posing a danger to the people and property below.

Gutters also contribute to ice dams when meltwater freezes in a cold gutter and prevents additional meltwater from draining off the roof.

Some homes use snow guards to control the rate at which snow and ice melt from a roof's surface. However, it’s uncommon to use snow guards on DECRA metal roofs because they keep a consistent temperature across the entire roofing area, including the eaves. The benefit to this is that it maximizes the roof’s energy efficiency, which translates to savings for homeowners during the cold (and warm) months of the year.

If you notice ice dams during your inspection, a homeowner can prevent them by adding insulation, and sealing off every possible air leak that might warm the underside of the roof.

Additionally, you’ll also want to make sure gutters are clear when inspecting the roof to avoid added weight from frozen debris. Addressing these trouble spots during an inspection gives you the upper hand by preventing ice dam formation and improving a roof’s well-being.

3. Look for Any Signs of Damage 

If you can safely access the roof and see the actual materials in the winter, you’ll want to inspect the individual shingles, tiles, and shakes closely because even the smallest cracks can cause a leak. A few things you want to look for are:

  • Materials that appear out of place.
  • Areas where ice can freeze underneath a panel or shingle.
  • Moss growth.
  • Loose panels or shingles.
  • Cracks or splitting.
  • Warped or rotted wood.

If you find that a replacement is necessary, consider stone-coated metal roofing when researching materials. Traditional asphalt roofing materials have an estimated life expectancy of 12 to 20 years. Metal roofs, on the other hand, have a lifespan that is two to three times longer than traditional roofing materials like asphalt, tile, and wood.

Year-Round Roofing Options with DECRA

DECRA Metal Roofing can be installed at any point during the winter. This makes our products a more suitable option compared to other roofing materials like asphalt shingles, which are challenging to install at temperatures below 45 degrees as nails shoot through them or become brittle and break during installation.

If the inspection uncovers a series of costly issues, it might be time to discuss a replacement. Fortunately, DECRA Metal Roofing can be installed year-round to withstand the winter elements. To get started, contact a DECRA roofing advisor today.