Winter residential roofing and cold-weather asphalt shingle applications

As expected, once again the leaves are falling and the weather is turning cooler. For roofing contractors in the southern states, it’s a welcome relief to the brutally hot summer roofing season. For contractors in northern areas, it means it’s time to adapt to the winter roofing season. Yes, asphalt shingles can still be installed successfully in cold weather, providing a few important changes are made to the usual practices.

If the temperature dips below freezing, frost, ice and snow become a serious safety factor on the roof. This makes the use of safe footwear and fall-arrest equipment even more critical. In the summer you worked to avoid the sides of the roof under the sun, but now the sun is your friend, keeping you a bit warmer and melting any frost on the deck. Take extra care going up and down ladders as well, since foot slips can occur more easily with even the slightest bit of frost (or snow).

Before the job starts, you’ll want to find those winter roofing gloves – the ones that offer just a bit more insulation and protection yet still allow you to handle the roofing materials and roofing equipment well. It’s also time to dig out that warm toque you buried under the truck seat last March!

Speaking of roofing materials, remember that the shingles won’t be as flexible at cooler temperatures so you’ll want to avoid staging them where the bundles will get bent or deformed or they’ll hold that shape while you’re trying to install them (like across the roof peaks) – try to store them as flat as possible until just before they’re needed.

Your equipment might need extra attention too to avoid increased problems with nail gun jams in colder weather. And the proper pressure setting on nails guns becomes more critical in cold weather as nails can ‘blow through’ colder shingles more easily. Fortunately two-layer laminated shingles are most often installed these days, and the blow-through problem can potentially be reduced slightly when the nails are properly placed in the dual-layer area of the shingle.

If the weather is forecasted to be cold for an extended period after the roof is installed, the shingles’ sealant adhesive can sometimes be affected, and if some strong winds come up, you could risk an unnecessary callback for repairs. You’ll want to give the shingles the best chance of success. As required by our warranty, shingles must be manually sealed with a small amount of approved sealant (usually a standard asphalt plastic cement) applied in a few spots under each. Additionally, cold weather applications require six (6) nails instead of the usual four (4).  Remember that the rake edges, areas between dormers and top few courses of the roof are the most prone to wind issues due to the wind speed increasing as it goes over the roof.

When it comes time to finish the roof with hip and ridge caps, you could save a lot of frustration by storing your cap shingles in a warm area prior to use, so they become less rigid than if they were sitting in the cold. Of course if you are installing a premium pre-folded ridge cap, such as IKO’s Ultra HP, pre-warming is not required.  Always make sure you follow the manufacturer’s installation instructions to comply with requirements for installation in colder weather.

Dress warmly, work safely, make a few simple adjustments to your warm-weather routine, and you can successfully install roofs through the colder winter months.

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