From Flakes to Leaks: How Snow Leads to Roof Damage and Ways to Stop It

January 16, 2024

In Maryland, snowy forecasts often bring a flurry of inquiries about leaking roofs to our desks. Our initial query to homeowners is typically, "Do you notice leaks during rain as well?"

Surprisingly, most often, the response is negative. This leaves many residents puzzled, wondering why leaks emerge specifically during snowfall.

With over three decades of expertise, our team at Top Quality Remodeling & Restoration has been demystifying the causes of these winter leaks for puzzled homeowners. We're here to extend that knowledge to you, explaining why snowstorms might lead to unexpected drips in your home.

This discussion will delve into the specific reasons why snow causes your roof to leak, pinpointing the common locations of these leaks. We'll also explore whether you can halt these leaks in their tracks as they occur.

By the conclusion of this piece, you'll gain insights into proactive measures to avert future snow-induced leaks, securing your home against the chill of unwanted drips.

Why Is Snow Causing Your Roof to Drip?

The simple answer to why your roof leaks during snowfall is something called ice damming. Ice damming happens when snow and ice accumulate and freeze near the edges of your roof, right above the gutters, forming what's known as an ice dam.

This icy barrier prevents melting snow from draining off your roof through the gutters as it normally would. Instead, the meltwater gets trapped, piling up on parts of the roof that aren't designed to hold water.

Trapped, the water has to go somewhere, and it often ends up seeping into your house. This leakage can persist until the entire ice dam melts away.

It's easy to think a leaky roof is a sign of a roof problem. But in reality, most roofs are not built to cope with water that remains in place, which is what happens with ice damming.

Understanding Leak-Prone Areas on Your Snow-Covered Roof

Knowing the cause of leaks during snowy conditions is just the beginning. It's also essential to identify where on your roof ice dams are likely to form, leading to potential leaks. Commonly, this occurs along the gutter line, where melting snow and ice can't flow freely due to the blockage and start to seep through your ceiling and down interior walls.

Ice dams can form in other critical areas such as roof valleys, around roof crickets (which are designed to steer water away from structures like chimneys), and at the junctions where roof valleys meet walls, known as deadpan valleys. These spots are integral to directing water to your gutters.

Although these areas can manage water flow, they're not designed to cope with pooled water. When ice dams occur, the water from melted snow and ice can't reach the gutters.

Consequently, water starts to leak into your house, particularly where valleys and crickets are present, leading to the unwelcome drip indoors.

Is It Possible to Halt Roof Leaks During a Snowstorm?

Once a leak from ice damming starts, there's no immediate fix to stop it in the moment. The best approach is to take preventive actions when your roof is being installed or replaced (more on that soon).

After a thaw, a roofing contractor can assess your roof to ensure the materials are still in good shape and not damaged. You might notice some homeowners attempting to remove snow and ice from their roofs using shovels or rakes. However, this is not only dangerous, but it can also harm your roof, potentially costing you a hefty sum for repairs or even an entire roof replacement due to severe damage.

In reality, your best bet is to have a container ready to catch any dripping water and monitor it closely. You'll be amazed at the amount of water that can leak through, so keeping an eye on it is crucial.

How to Protect Your Roof from Snow-Related Leaks?

When considering roof replacement, it's the perfect time to integrate preventive measures against leaks. A crucial step is the installation of an ice and water shield along the roof's edges (such as rakes and eaves), extending at least two feet past the interior walls of your house.

Additionally, addressing the roof valleys during replacement is vital for preventing ice damming. The most effective strategy involves installing an ice and water shield in all roof valleys. However, for areas like deadpan valleys, where valleys meet a wall, it's essential to install a durable material like metal or a membrane. This ensures that if water does back up, it won't penetrate any cracks and cause leaks.

If you already have a roof with a deadpan valley, retrofitting a piece of metal or membrane is an option, though it requires consultation with a professional roofing contractor. They can advise on the best approach for your specific roof structure.

Beyond these structural measures, regular roof maintenance is key. Ensure your gutters are clean and free of debris to allow proper water drainage. Also, adequate attic insulation and ventilation can help maintain a uniform roof temperature, reducing the chances of ice dam formation.

By combining these preventive strategies, you can significantly reduce the risk of snow-related roof leaks and safeguard your home against the harsh winter elements.

Understanding Homeowners Insurance Coverage for Roof Damage

After exploring the reasons behind roof leaks during snow, areas prone to such leaks, possible prevention, and mitigation methods, an important question remains: Does homeowners insurance cover the damage caused by these leaks?

Homeowners insurance policies typically cover damage to your personal property and structural damage resulting from a leak. However, whether the insurance will address the underlying issue on your roof causing the leak is a different matter.

Insurance policies often have limitations and may not cover all causes of roof leaks. It's crucial to understand the specifics of what your policy includes regarding roof damage.

Since 1992, Top Quality Remodeling & Restoration has been offering expert roofing solutions to residents in North Eastern Maryland and the Baltimore, MD area. We're here to address any roofing issue you might face, ensuring that your roof is robust and reliable. Trust us to provide the care your roof needs, so you can enjoy peace of mind regardless of the weather.

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