Installing a New Roof in Cold Weather
Can you replace a roof during the winter?
It seems to be the out-dated popular opinion that you can’t install a new roof during the winter.
But we have a question. Why not??
Keep in mind, it also used to be the popular opinion that if you wanted to communicate with someone long-distance, you had to mail them a letter, or else send them a telegram.
These days, technology is bringing us year-round roofing (along with the easiest long-distance communication ever)! Winter installation is especially possible in Kentucky, where it doesn’t get as cold as parts of Canada or Siberia.
How has technology changed the roofing production schedule? And what are some of the advantages, (yes, advantages!) of getting a roof replacement done during the winter? Let’s first examine the technology and protocols that make cold weather installation possible and then, last but not least, the undeniable advantages.
The overwhelming concern of homeowners about winter installation is the idea that the shingles will crack. Granted, that used to be a legitimate concern. But a lot has changed since asphalt roofing was invented in the early nineteen hundreds. While there may still be a few lines of products that are best only installed in warmer weather, most featured lines used in Kentucky no longer have that problem. Leaving shingles in a warm area prior to application is sufficient to allay concerns about cracking. Here, at Roof It Right, we keep materials overnight in our shop at a balmy seventy degrees during the winter.
Today’s shingle has replaced the previously commonly used felt with a fiberglass base sheet. In addition, laminate shingles provide a double layer of protection with two factory-adhered layers. Some high-quality brands, like Owens Corning, also have a strip of fabric embedded in between the two layers in the nailing zone. This helps enhance the integrity of the shingles. These upgrades have made the modern asphalt shingle much easier to handle and manipulate. If shingles are properly handled, worrying about cracking during cold weather is a thing of the past.
Another advancement in technology that makes winter roofing more viable are self-sealing strips of adhesive that have been added to the surface of the shingle, eliminating the need to manually add adhesive to every single shingle at time of application which could be problematic during the winter.
Let’s move on to cold weather installation protocols. . .
Just as there are hot weather protocols for roof installation, there are cold weather protocols. We follow the below protocols for temperatures ranging from 20 to 40 degrees Fahrenheit. (See the cold weather installation protocols set out by Owens Corning.) Each set of elements creates different needs. Experienced installers know how to adapt to the current climate. Nevertheless, sunny and dry but cold days are the best time to install modern asphalt shingles as we shall see.
- Wait until the roof is clear of frost or ice.
Safety is always the first and foremost concern. Can the roof safely be installed? If there is frost, ice, or wet conditions, then the answer is no. So the first cold weather protocol is to make sure that the roof is sufficiently dry.
- Keep Shingles in a Warm Place
Moisture aside, the second protocol is to keep the shingles and other materials in a warm place until they are ready to be installed. Shingles will maintain pliability when outside exposure is limited to daytime hours. This isn’t a problem for most roofing contractors that have a warm shed or other out building.
- Store Shingles on a flat surface.
During colder weather shingles are more likely to conform to the shape of the surface they are laying on. That is why care is taken to keep them flat, even while being stored in a warm place. During the summer, roofers may be inclined to toss bundles of shingle over the ridge of the roof. In colder temperatures, bundles of shingles are not bent over the ridge.
- Hand seal all shingles along the sloped edges.
Shingles along the sloped edges get special care to prevent blow off. Each of those shingles are hand sealed using 4 spots of evenly spaced asphalt roof cement, approximately 1 inch from the shingle’s edge and pressed in placed.
- Do not expect the shingles to immediately lay flat.
The same technology that makes not having to manually deal with adhesive on the whole roof may give the uneducated homeowner pause. When he or she looks at their new roof, the shingles may look “wavy” or buckled. This is because the self-sealing strips of adhesive are heat activated. In direct sunlight the sealant might activate, even in the winter. But maybe not. Even though the shingles are expertly nailed together, the shingles won’t lay flat until warmer temperatures activate the adhesive. But don’t worry, give it a few weeks to a couple months, and your new roof will be the envy of the block.
So why bother with a cold weather installation? Why not wait until warmer months? There are distinct advantages to the homeowner, the roofing contractor, and the installers.
REDUCED FOOT TRAFFIC DAMAGE
The biggest advantage to the homeowner is that cold weather installation reduces damage to the roof. How? Foot traffic damage is reduced! This is huge. When roofers walk across your roof during the summer, granular loss is unavoidable. Remember, asphalt is a soft material. Imagine walking across soft butter and trying not to mess up the smooth surface. Not an ideal way to start out the lifespan of your new roof! You can avoid the typical initial damage with a winter installation.
An obvious advantage to the roofing contractor is avoiding delays in production. It also allows the contractor to continue providing work to crews and their families nearly year round. For this reason, if a homeowner has a definite preference as to what temperature his or her roof should be installed in, he or she is best to communicate that upfront to the roofing contractor. In that case, the contractor could pre-schedule the installation to a warmer month. Otherwise, the contractor risks having to reschedule an entire crew at the last minute. In the case of a sudden cancellation, the contractor could be in the right to sue the homeowner for liquidated damages if he or she could not recoup the losses. So if the weather unexpectedly turns cold, going ahead with a cold weather installation turns into an advantage to the homeowner as well.
SAFER FOR THE INSTALLERS
The last advantage we will consider is that a cold weather installation is much easier on the installers themselves. Many roofers prefer working on cold days, because they can stay warm by working. In contrast, on hot, humid days, it’s nearly impossible to stay cool. Working on a roof in the summer is very demanding and requires frequent drink and shade breaks. These precautions help avoid heat exhaustion and dehydration; but these concerns don’t really exist in a cold weather installation.
We have considered that modern shingle technology allows for nearly year-round roof replacement. Certain protocols negate past concerns about shingle cracking. We also learned that homeowners, roofing contractors, and installers can all benefit from installing a roof in colder weather! So can you replace a roof in the winter?
Yes! The bottom line is as long as it’s safe for roofers to be outside and to walk on the roof, meaning no ice or snow, yes, they can install a roof in the winter in Kentucky.
Is it cold outside? Why wait? Get your new roof installed today!
Disclaimer: this article relates to roofing for temperature ranges in Kentucky.