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Winter Roofing: What You Need to Know

This blog was originally published on January 25, 2019, and was revised for freshness, clarity, and accuracy.

Roofing in winter requires a lot more planning and precautions than in other seasons, but it’s still possible and can be advantageous to your business. The trick is doing the job right and safely. So, before you take on the task, here are a few things you need to know about replacing a roof in winter.

Winter Roofing Safety Tips

Wait for Ideal Temperatures to Do Roof Work

Even if you choose to work during winter, you ought to wait for the right temperature before installing a roof. Roofing below freezing temperatures can be uncomfortable and unsafe due to slippery footing and poor tool/shingle performance.

The ideal temperature to install roof shingles is between 40 and 85°F. If clients need your roofing services in the winter, you should wait for temperatures to get to that range. Waiting for it to be above freezing will ensure your safety and that your working space is clear. However, some roofs are 10–15° warmer than the ambient temperature due to the heat inside the home.

But if waiting to put on the roof isn’t an option, you could consider snow removal or de-icing. Just remember, shoveling and ice-breaking is dangerous work on a roof. It reqwiuires extra time, caution, equipment, and training, so you should only try it if you already have experience.

Prevent Dehydration

You might think dehydration is a summer-only problem, but that isn’t the case. Roofers are still performing heavy labor that causes them to sweat, even in the cold. Dehydration happens when you lose water and don’t replace it.

Without regular hydration, you might feel lightheaded, tired, and dizzy. Dizziness is especially dangerous on a slippery roof coated with ice.

To stay hydrated, take frequent water breaks. You should also have water stations on-site to keep your team from getting dehydrated. As another layer of safety, you should know how to treat dehydration.

Use Winter Roofing Equipment

Roofers should also wear roof-fall protection equipment while working on snowy rooftops. Your winter safety equipment should include safety nets, a PFA body harness, a hard hat, and guardrail systems.

You should also keep your equipment clear of snow and ice. When you place your ladder, set it on a clear spot—putting it on snow or ice can make it slide. Routinely remove any snow that builds up on the ladder rungs while you’re working.

Wear the Right Clothes for Roofing in the Winter

Hypothermia is a real threat for winter roofers. Your job will be less challenging and more secure when you wear additional gear that withstands wet and cold conditions, including winter jackets and roofing boots. You and your crews should wear layers that keep heat in and moisture out. These layers shouldn’t be tight since tight clothing can reduce blood circulation.

Be aware of frostbite. Your extremities are the most vulnerable to frostbite, so cover up with gloves, a hat, earmuffs, warm socks, and waterproof boots.

If your work boots aren’t great winter roofing boots, add cleats to them. The spikes dig into ice, which gives you more traction and helps prevent slipping while on the roof.

Get boot cleats on Amazon.

Note: All products we feature have been independently selected and reviewed by our editorial team. If you make a purchase using the included links, we may earn commission.

Be Careful on the Roads

Winter storms can lead to dangerous road conditions. Black ice, snow, sleet, and whiteouts impact how long it takes to get to a job. Give yourself extra time to get to the job site so you won’t feel the need to speed.

Follow the rules of the road, slow down, and be extra attentive while you drive. If the conditions are too risky, it’s better to reschedule for another day. It’s better to keep your team safe, even if that causes a slight delay.

Know Where Trip Hazards Are

When it’s a warm and clear day, you can see where everything is on the roof and the ground. With snow cover and gray skies, that isn’t the case.

Snow can hide a layer of ice, pipes, and other hazards. Identify where those dangers lie with your team before you start your roofing project.

Use the Right Materials & Tools for Winter Roofing

You can install some roofing systems in winter without compromising quality, whereas others need warmer weather. Shingle adhesives can freeze and break in cold temperatures, so it’s important to distinguish what products will work and last in winter.

Install the Right Kind of Shingles in Cold Weather

It’s easy to install low-technology roofing materials like cedar shingles or metal tiles during the winter. These materials are less susceptible to temperature fluctuations and hardly require any adhesive for proper installation.

On the other hand, you shouldn’t install these roofing systems in winter:

  • Modified bitumen
  • Rubber roofs
  • Any kind of peel-n-stick products

Installing Asphalt Shingles in Cold Weather

Because asphalt shingles must seal properly, they work best under warm weather conditions. While you can install asphalt shingles in the winter, they require extreme care and attention to keep them from bending, cracking, or getting moisture underneath them.

If you plan to work with asphalt shingles during winter, get them warm before installing them. You may even consider hand-sealing the shingles with an asphalt roofing cement or another reliable sealant to activate the bond in the cold weather.

Watching Winter Roofing Tool Performance

Not only can the weather affect your shingles, but it can also affect your tools. Tools like air compressors and nail guns that lay shingles in place can perform worse in the winter.

Subzero temperatures can freeze the water in the tool’s airlines, preventing nails from being driven into the shingle deep enough. Shallow nails will result in loose shingles and defeat the purpose of repairing the roof in the first place.

Alternatively, you can nail the shingles by hand instead of using an automatic tool. This process takes longer but guarantees reliable results.

Stay Safe While Roofing in the Winter

Cold-weather roofing offers high-stake challenges, but these obstacles won’t stop roofers from getting the job done. After all, roofing damage occurs during any season, and homeowners will always need roofers willing to work in the winter. Remember these tips to help you stay safe and do your best winter roofing work.

Do you do winter roofing? What winter roofing safety tips do you have? Let us know in the comments below!

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