Late summer and fall tend to be the busiest months for roofers. With colder, wetter, winter weather on the horizon, homeowners are looking up. Many homeowners feel like this is their last chance to repair or replace their roof before winter settles in. But is that really true? What happens if you need a new roof in the dead of winter? 

Most homeowners don’t replace their roofs until they are forced to. That means that many roof replacements are emergency jobs that can’t always wait until spring. So if your roof springs a leak between Thanksgiving and Easter, what are your options?

TrustDALE is here to give you the low-down on winter roof replacements and what you can expect. One thing you should know up-front, however, is that when your roof needs to be replaced, it’s never a good idea to wait. Call one of our great TrustDALE certified roofers to inspect your roof and make a recommendation. Usually, the longer you wait, the worse things get. A simple roof replacement can turn into a nightmare of water damage remediation and disaster cleanup.

Do I Need to Wait Until Spring to Replace My Roof [infographic]

Why You Might Replace a Roof in the Winter

There are two ways people end up replacing their roofs. If you’re lucky, you can plan ahead, save up, find the most convenient time, and replace an aging roof as it reaches the end of its useful life. If you are less lucky, your roof lets you know it’s time for a replacement when it starts to leak—or worse! Whichever path you take to roof replacement, you may not have to wait until spring to replace your roof.

We often think of winter roof replacement as an emergency situation. But the truth is that roofers are usually less busy in the winter, which can make it ideal for a planned roof replacement. You may be able to get a better price or more flexible scheduling during the winter than during the summer or fall. Roofers don’t hibernate; they work year-round. Hiring roofers when business is slow allows you to pick the roofer of your choice at a time of your choosing, with much less competition and shorter wait times. You just need to be aware of some differences between replacing a roof during winter and replacing it at a warmer time of year.

What’s Different About a Winter Roof Replacement

Overall, replacing a roof during the winter is pretty much the same as replacing a roof at any time of year. But there are some differences to be aware of. 

The first issue you run into is the way that temperature affects roofing materials. There are dozens of residential roofing materials on the market, and they don’t all react to cold the same way. The most popular residential roofing material, by far, is asphalt shingle. It is best to install asphalt shingle in 40-85 degree weather. That’s not to say it can’t be done in hotter and colder temperatures. But when the weather is much hotter or colder, there may be some other considerations.

Another consideration with winter roof replacement is the human factor. Roofers work outdoors, and they’re used to dealing with weather. But when the temperature drops, roofers may need to adjust how they work to stay safe.

Finally, there is the weather itself to contend with. Winter weather can be rough on your roof, especially if half of it is torn up, and the other half is undergoing construction.

Asphalt Shingle in Cold Weather

Asphalt shingle is the most popular type of residential roofing. It comes in hundreds of shapes, colors, styles, and price ranges. Overall, asphalt shingle tends to be less expensive than many other roofing materials, which is one reason it has become so popular. It is also easy to work with and easy to install, which means less labor for roofers and lower costs for homeowners.

One of the nice things about asphalt roofing is that it is self-sealing. Every asphalt shingle installation starts at the bottom edge of the roof and works its way up toward the ridge. As a roofer installs asphalt shingles, they fasten each section of shingle with nails at the top of the shingle. The roofer lays the next how of shingles so that they overlap the top of the row below. This hides the nails and provides an added layer of wind and water-tightness. Manufactured asphalt shingles have a bottom layer of adhesive so that each row of shingles sticks to the row beneath it and forms a tight seal.

To make the shingles easier to work with, the adhesive is not initially sticky when the roofers install it. Instead, it softens as the roof sits in the sun after it is installed. The sun warms the shingles and the adhesive underneath, and the adhesive forms a tight seal. To get a proper seal, the shingles need a few days of sun with temperatures over forty degrees. In some regions, that can be hard to come by during the coldest winter months.

Another challenge of handling asphalt shingles in the winter is that asphalt shingles can become brittle in cold weather. At temperatures between forty and eighty-five degrees, asphalt shingle is slightly pliable, with just enough give to make it easy to handle and install. But as the temperature drops below forty degrees, the asphalt loses its flexibility and can even become brittle.

An experienced roofer should be able to handle less flexible asphalt shingles, but you still run the risk of cracking or breaking shingles. The most significant concern is that shingles will develop tiny cracks that the roofers can’t see. If shingles are installed with hairline cracks, those cracks can quickly grow into leaks and broken shingles.

Other Roofing Materials in Winter

While not as popular as asphalt shingles, materials such as tile, wood, and metal are all common on residential roofs. For the most part, they don’t have the same cold-weather problems as asphalt. In very cold weather, tile can become brittle. But tile is already at risk for cracking and breaking, so any roofer who installs tile roofs should know how to handle the tiles safely. Wood and metal are hardly affected by temperature. They can be installed at any temperature with very little difference.

One area where the temperature may make a difference, regardless of the shingle material, is the underlayment. Most roofs today have a layer of felt or a synthetic material between the plywood deck and the shingles. This underlayment is an added layer of protection against the elements. Depending on the type of underlayment, the weather could affect how it is installed. Many popular underlayments use self-sealing adhesive, similar to asphalt shingles. If that’s the case, cold weather may delay the adhesion.

How Roofers Work Differently in the Winter

Roofers are human beings. They work outdoors in a wide range of temperatures, but that means they have to adapt. Just like everyone else, roofers deal with cold weather by adding layers, such as a sweater, jacket, and warm hat. However, if the temperatures really start to drop, roofers may need to take breaks to warm up. That can slow down the process somewhat. 

Another major factor in how fast your roof is completed is daylight hours. Roofers usually only work during daylight. On large commercial jobs, roofers may work by the light of high-powered construction site lighting. But residential roofers rarely set up artificial light. They work during the daylight hours they have. In the winter, that may mean that the same job that took two days in the summer could take three or four days in the winter.

If You Need to Replace Your Roof, Don’t Wait!

The most important thing to know about replacing your roof is that it is never a good idea to put it off. In any season, waiting to install your new roof can lead to severe damage to your home. If you fail to repair or replace a roof after a roofer recommends it, your insurance may not cover additional damage.

So regardless of the season, if you need a new roof, don’t wait. Contact a TrustDALE certified roofer as soon as possible!

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