How to Install Shingles in Cold Weather?

Many people believe that shingles cannot be installed in cold weather.

The answer to that statement can be both yes and no.

On the “no “side; installing shingles in winter is not advisable if the temperature is in the negative double digits centigrade. In practical terms; such temperatures are typically not fit for man or beast; so it is not advisable from a health and safety point of view, under extremely cold weather conditions.

From a technical point of view; if a particular installer does not account for temperature change when setting the pressure on their automatic nailing gun; this can result in nails not being fully driven into the roof deck, and therefore seating the shingle improperly. This is important if the intention is to honour the shingle manufacturer’s wind lift standards.

There can also be a point where the shingle product itself can become too brittle when one considers extremely cold temperatures. Think twenty-five degrees below zero as an example, like many of our northern communities experience during the winter season.

Having said this; on the “yes” side of the debate, it is absolutely possible to be installing shingles in a competent manner during the winter months. The fact is, a prudent roofing contractor needs to pick the appropriate days. Appropriate days include when the weather may be below zero degrees but in the single digits only.

It is true that fibreglass shingles will “self-seal” more quickly during warmer weather. If the roof is nailed correctly, there should be little to no issue, in that the shingles will have their sealing strip activate once there begins a period of consistent heat from the sun.

In the GTA, new building construction goes on virtually every day of the year. Similarly, re-roofing takes place twelve months a year, simply because of the demand for service, and the fact that increasingly; there are less qualified tradespersons to do the work. This is true of many trades, not just roofing.

Related Content: Steps To Prepare Your Roof for the Winter

The fact is, the activity of installing shingles generally leads a contractor from April until December as the traditional busy part of their year. But there are typically projects that carry over from the past year due to sudden weather change, the holiday season, and the fact that many crews take some time in the winter to rejuvenate their bodies.

Further to note is that the winter does not halt the fact that many large projects such as townhouse complexes, large commercial shingle projects, etc. often have deadlines that need to be met.

Even for some homeowners, the winter represents the best time for them to have their shingles installed, because of intricate gardens which they want to fully use during the warmer season. Less potential for damage is certainly one advantage of installing shingles in the winter season.

Multi-dwelling complexes often choose the winter period to complete their large shingle projects as it represents the best time of year to minimize disruption to occupant families. (Imagine forty kids cooped up in the summer, that cannot run outside and play while dangers lurk overhead).

Let’s also not forget the people that have active leaks, or develop leaks during the winter months.

Those people have to solve their issues and mitigate interior damages, which can morph the cost of a simple shingle replacement.

The fact is that in the past decade, the GTA has generally experienced warmer temperatures for longer periods, which has allowed the roofing community to be installing shingles in the wintertime.

From the roofing contractor’s point of view, installing shingles in the winter can be both a blessing and a curse. It can be a blessing to keep key staff working which allows them to have steady or increased income, as well as maintaining important cash flow through the winter months.

On the curse side, could be sudden weather shifts which result in delayed completions; tying up money and resources, and let’s remember that part about managing client expectations.

The reality is that installing shingles in the winter costs the contractor more. It costs more because snow or ice need to be dealt with before the actual shingle installation can take place. The days are shorter, so that the job that could be done in twelve hours during the summer, may now require two days to complete.

It also results in the fact that in spite of best efforts to leave a client’s property spotless on completion; there may be the need for a return visit in spring, just to ensure no minor debris was hidden by the snow.

One consideration when installing shingles in the winter is to avoid opening up more roof areas than can be comfortably roofed back in during the same day. This is particularly important when also having to complete carpentry to replace rotted decking or structural rafter repairs.

Some other fine points of installing shingles during the winter involve doing a textbook job. Nails should be placed in the correct nailing position of the nailing strip to provide for the shingle to have the best resistance to high winds in keeping with the shingle manufacturer’s requirements. Fierce winds can present themselves during winter months, and the transition period into early spring, where more severe rainstorms will typically occur in our market.

Related Content: Snow Accumulation Can Cause Considerable Damage to Your Roof

Utilizing full coverage of either fibreglass felts or synthetic underlayment will act as a temporary water-tight in the event that the weather changes quickly or mid-job. Additionally, the use of a quality ice and water membrane at roof eaves areas, valleys, and roof appliances; supplies further protection from winter perils.

Roofers who are experienced in roofing during the winter months, know that they will receive calls from clients that have experienced the phenomenon of “winter leaks” with their shingle roof. Ninety-five percent of the time it has nothing to do with the workmanship of the shingles being installed; but rather issues that develop due to heat loss, insufficient air sealing, and or inadequate levels of the attic or wall insulation.

“ I never had this problem before…” you will hear. The client actually believes a poor job may have been done, but the fact is the roofer did not cause the problem.  The fact is that perhaps as a result of the winter shingle replacement work, the problem only has surfaced for the client to see.

As an example stripping off multiple roofing layers and then installing a singular new layer of shingles, results in a changed building envelope dynamic. The old, multiple roofing layers were actually acting as a thermal blanket on the home. Now the heat loss from the attic is quite apparent.

Under such circumstances, clients will observe frost on the nails protruding through the roof decking in the attic, or worse water dripping off those nail heads, the appearance of leaks around pot lights, skylights, or perimeter walls, etc.

Ice back up is also a peril that results from heat loss, (and on some occasions, results from poor roof design). Such an example may be where two gable dormers are in very close location to one another, and snow accumulates and backs up at the base of the valleys.

One has to remember that shingle materials are water-shedding products and while they do offer a particular measure of water-proofing; they are actually water-resisting materials; particularly when one compares it to a flat roofing system, which actually is a water-proofing membrane.

In summary, for those people that must address their roofing requirements during the colder months; there is really nothing to fear. The success of the activity boils down to selecting a certified, licensed, and properly insured, roofing contractor that has the experience to complete the work in a professional manner, and in keeping with choosing days that are in the best interests of the client’s needs.

It is also good to remember that historically, the spring and fall represent the busiest time period for roofing contractors in the eastern part of the country. Naturally people begin to spend more time outdoors and notice the exterior home improvement projects which need attention or are on the to do list.

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