When we think about roof damage, hail and wind are the primary suspects.
Spring thunderstorms and Fall hurricanes keep the roofers and insurance companies extremely busy.
That’s understandable because it is easy to spot the blown-off shingles or see a roofing membrane punctured by hail. However, the damage caused by water, snow, and ice in the winter may be just as bad or even worse than hail or wind.
Isn’t the whole reason for having a roof to keep the water out?
Water is like God… it will always find a way!
The hairline crack in your shingle may be 10 foot up the roof and 3 feet over from the kitchen ceiling stain. Doesn’t matter!
Water will find the crack, travel through a maze of rafters and figure out how to drop straight into the kitchen. Water will always find a way.
This is especially true when you consider that natural materials (e.g. Wood Shingles, Membrane Base Sheets, Organic Shingle Mats, etc.) contract when they get cold. This is what George Costanza from Seinfeld would’ve called “Shrinkage”.
Things get cold and they shrink, shrivel, and contract. Think about your own hands on a cold day; they look thinner and bony. Have you looked at your hands on a hot day? They look fuller; maybe even swollen, right?
An asphalt shingle with a hairline crack on a hot day has probably expanded… less likely for the water to find an opening.
That same cracked asphalt shingle on a cold day will have contracted in on itself… leaving a greater opening for the water to make it’s way inside.
What’s worse than a cracked shingle on a cold day is a rubber boot around a PVC pipe with a small split down the back.
On a cold day, that opening will look as big as the hole in your pants when you forget to zip your zipper at your cousin’s wedding.
Can you imagine what happens when there’s a split in the PVC boot with 6 inches of snow on the roof too?
When I was a little boy growing up in Apple Valley, Minnesota the snowplows would pile all of the snow in our neighborhood at the end of my cul-de-sac.
The snow would be stacked at least 8 feet high. The first thing all of the kids would do is to start digging tunnels. We had a maze of tunnels underneath and then we would make slides on top of the snow.
Kids would be sliding down the snow on top and crawling through the tunnels down below. It was a blast! It was also extremely dangerous.
We had no idea how heavy the snow could be if it ever collapsed on us. Thank God it never did, but there’s plenty of horror stories of kids getting buried in the snow.
In a snowstorm, it doesn’t take a snowplow to create a roofing problem. The wind can easily stack several feet of heavy snow on the roof against an adjoining outside wall.
If you’ve lived in the North, you know the weight of the snow can easily snap a joist, break a rafter or crack the decking.
If the structure beneath the shingle has been compromised, the integrity of the roofing system has also been compromised.
Ice Damage is a real problem, but can be hard to identify.
Do you remember this children’s riddle…
“A man is found dead in a puddle of water on the floor with a hole in his heart. How did he die?”
Obviously, he was stabbed in the heart with an icicle. Duh!
Let’s switch it up a bit, okay?
“A big yellow stain appears on a kitchen ceiling a few days after a big freeze. How did it get there?”
We know that water will always find a way, right? Imagine it was raining on the day of the freeze. The rain found it’s way to a small opening on the roof and settled there.
As the temperature falls below freezing, the water expands while the substrate contracts. The small opening gets bigger as the water turns to ice.
The next day, when the temperature gets warmer, the water melts down into the now larger opening. Add to that a good soaking rain and you’ve got yourself a leak somewhere in the house.
Imagine what happens to all those cracks on a roof as the weather goes from freezing to thawing over-and-over again all winter long.
Can you see where the ice would cause real problems, but be extremely difficult to explain to an rookie adjuster?
The good adjusters already know about ice damage. They know what snow can do to a roof too. It doesn’t even surprise them when you’ve got a leak on the front side of the home, but the damage is on the backside of the roof.
My Papa, my Grandma’s second husband, was an old man when he died.
He fought and survived World War II, outlived his first wife, and beat esophagus cancer in his 70’s before getting killed by a Plumbing truck surging down 71st Street in Tulsa, OK.
Some place all the blame on the guy driving the truck. I don’t see it that way.
Sure, the plumber may have put the proverbial nail in the coffin, but that’s not really what killed Papa.
He lived a long, good life. Maybe I’ll tell you more about him later.
By the time Papa died, he probably shouldn’t have been driving. In fact, I remember my wife & I rode with Papa & Grandma to the mall not long before he passed away. Honestly, he scared me. He scared my wife too.
Come to think of it, I bet he scared my Grandma too. She just didn’t say anything about it. Nobody ever wants to tell a proud, old man that he should think about giving up driving.
The survival rate for esophagus cancer is low, depressingly low… especially for old men. After Papa beat esophagus cancer, with a lot of prayer and even more chemo, his mind was never the same.
He had always been quick on his feet and even faster thinking… that’s probably how he survived the war. Unlike Barry Sanders when he retired, Papa lost a step or two after chemo.
When Papa pulled out on to 71st Street, he didn’t have a chance. His mind wasn’t quick enough to adjust to the truck coming over the hill.
Do you understand what I’m trying to tell you?
The chances of that damaged roof you’re looking at being caused by one, single, isolated event isn’t very likely.
All damage is cumulative… it adds up. Every event, regardless of whether it is hail, wind, water, snow or ice, has to be taken seriously because they all cause damage.