Challenges of Fall Roofing – The 10 Commandments of Fall Roofing

When the leaves fall, the phone rings.  Panic is setting in as homeowners who know their roof will not safeguard their homes through the winter call.  The key to effective autumn roofing is planning but even the best laid plans will not be perfect.

Here’s what you can do to maximize your chances of success.

  1. Understand the limitations of the weather.  A day with a 0% chance of rain could result in a downpour while days that appear doomed to rain may end up completely dry.  Don’t ask a roofer to use power tools in the rain or to go on a roof when there is a risk of heavy winds knocking them off.
  2. Hire a contractor who can complete your job in just one or two days.
  3. Read your contractors reviews.  What customers say is just as, if not more important as their online ratings.  How did they handle problems that came up?
  4. Choose a non-permeable synthetic underlayment instead of roofing felt.  Most synthetic roofing underlayment double as tarp material in the case of an unanticipated downpour.
  5. Northern climates typically require a rubberized membrane by code.  Read your contract and If it’s not too late, see if you can get two layers of what is called ice/water membrane with the second layer overlapping the first a few inches.  If it’s not on your contract, ask your contractor how much it would be to upgrade to this non-permeable membrane that will protect you against the affects of ice damming.
  6. Understand that if your roofer has a backlog, every day that passes between you signing your contract and him or her doing the install will affect the install.  If they don’t have a backlog, there may be a reason why.
  7. Assuming you’ve done your homework and checked out your roofer before they’ve even walked through the door, allow your roofer to balance their time.  Attempting to micromanage a job only makes a challenging job even more difficult.
  8. Allow materials and the dumpster to be delivered prior to the install date even if it means a week before install. Schedules change and a roofer may find himself ahead of schedule or behind.
  9. Understand that your adhesives will probably not have a chance to activate.  Cool temperatures don’t activate the adhesives that make shingles act as one giant sheet of roofing.  This means you may have some shingle blow-off in the winter.  If that happens, your better roofers will come back when the temperature rises to repair any damage.  If blow off does happen, remember that water in its solid form (snow or ice) won’t pour into your home.
  10. Ask how many nails go into each shingle.  You’ll minimize your chances of blow off if your roofer is using a 5/6 nail system, which is to say that they’re using an average of 5 to 6 nails per full length shingle.  Some shingles also have a reinforced strip along the nailing hem that can help reduce the chance of blowoff.

Even your best roofer can have mishaps that can never be anticipated.  It is how they correct and manage mishaps that define how good they are.  They’re trying to get as much done as possible before the temperature drops below 30 degrees F and an asphalt shingle turns into a piece of slate that gets micro fractures every time a nail hits it.  Even though there are optimal conditions for installing a roof, sometimes it’s just not practical if you waited too long and you have an active leak.  There are times when roofers will do the tear off in the morning when it is below freezing, but the temperature gets above freezing as the day progresses and it is time to install the shingles.  It’s a balancing act, but if you have a skilled roofer, he can make an install work even if the temperature is fluctuating right around 30 degrees.

For more information on cold weather solutions, see our article “Hot Houses Needed for Freezing Temperature Installs”.

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