It's never a good time for a leaking roof, but leaks that occur in winter present a whole slew of new problems. It can be difficult, if not nearly impossible, to repair a leak when snow and ice are on the roof. The following can help you understand the common causes of winter leaks and the steps you can take to prevent further damages.
An ice dam occurs when snow doesn't fully melt and run off the roof. Instead, the meltwater quickly refreezes and forms an ice dam near the edge of the roof. Additional melt builds up behind the dam, where it may back up and flow beneath the shingles and leak into your home. Clogged gutters and poor insulation in the attic are two primary causes of ice dam formation.
You have a few options if you have an ice dam that is causing a leak. Your roofer can use heated cables to melt channels in the dam so water can flow off the roof. Cables may also be placed on the gutters to keep them from freezing so water can flow away. After the roof thaws, you can clean the gutters or add more insulation to the attic to prevent future dam formation.
Damage can also occur to the roof, such as lost shingles from a winter storm or simply an aging roof that is unable to withstand one last winter. If there is ice or snow on the roof, repairs may have to wait until a melt if the damage is not severe.
Your roofer can install temporary "pig tarps" under the leaks in your attic if the damage is minor. These are specially made to route water to a sink, drain, or bucket until a repair can be made. For more severe damage, your roofer may advise using heated cables to melt the snow and ice from the roof. They will then tent the roof to keep it dry while the roofer makes repairs beneath the tent. If the weather doesn't allow for a full repair, then the roofer may opt to tarp the roof until warmer weather returns.
Winter roof damage is inconvenient, but it isn't the end of the world. You can help avoid winter roof repairs by contacting a residential roofing company for a full inspection. By making repairs in advance, you will avoid a leak down the road.