This winter has been a nasty one. Many homeowners have faced extremely cold conditions and the challenges that come with snowstorms and freezing rain. If you’re one of them, you likely dealt with slippery roads, school and business closures, and plenty more that you’d rather forget. Meanwhile, your home also had to fight the effects of the unpleasant conditions—effects that could have hindered the performance of its roof.
The root of the problem is thermal cycling. This phenomenon causes the expansion and contraction of building components. It’s ongoing, and it and corresponds to the changes in seasons. Expansion occurs during the warm months; contraction occurs during the cold months.
The damage caused by thermal cycling can put the integrity of the entire roof system at risk, and while no one can stop thermal cycling completely, you can limit its effects by ensuring that the temperature and humidity in your home’s attic space are as stable as possible. Having proper attic-space insulation and ventilation goes a long way to combating the harm caused to the roof by thermal cycling. Click here to learn more about the importance of attic-space climate.
Most building materials expand and contract at different rates. That’s why the stress caused by thermal expansion is intensified when different component materials are installed in layers. The roof is a perfect example of such a structure, where major layered components include ridge vents, shingles, underlayment for moisture resistance and roof-deck protection, and the roof deck. The shifting of layered components can be especially problematic, because when a layer shifts, all layers on top of it are forced to shift with it.
Damage from thermal cycling is more evident as your home ages, but serious problems could be lurking where you can’t see them—even in new homes. Consulting an expert in the field can help you learn some important information about how thermal cycling has affected your roof’s performance and whether your attic space is properly insulated and ventilated.
If an inspection reveals that roof replacement is necessary, ask the following questions when you’re talking to contractors: Who manufactures the roof? Is it a thoroughly tested and proven system, or is it being cobbled together with parts of unknown origin or quality? Are the roofing components made in America? What is the warranty on the roof? Does the warranty cover the roof and its installation? Will the roof be installed by professionals? Who will service the roof? In addition, be sure the contractor inspects your roof deck thoroughly before any work begins.