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Winter months have a broad range of weather conditions, from blizzards and torrential downpours to dry and frigid temperatures. Building owners and managers must be aware of the demands placed on roofs to ensure belongings are secured and protected from inclement weather. Following are a few roofing solutions for three different winter weather conditions.

Slushy snow and piercing ice

The best type of roofing system for snow and ice is a pitched roof. Pitched roofs are the most common type of roof, and the most visible when approaching a building. As snow and ice melts, this roofing option makes it easier for ice and sludge to make its way off the roof, minimizing the chance of water damage.

Numerous material options are available for pitched roofs, including metal, slate, shingles, wood shake and tile. For areas of heavy snow and ice—like the Northeast region—using metal may be the most beneficial due to its durability and resistance to snow and ice damage. A variety of metal options are available, such as cold-rolled steel, painted aluminum, zinc or copper. Local weather factors, aesthetic desires and cost will be determining factors in metal selection.

One of the most important decisions to make for a pitched roof is the underlayment because it will impact durability of the roof system. For example, a #30 felt is the typical underlayment for tile and metal; however, synthetic or modified underlayments tend to have a longer service life.  Consideration must be made for the possibility of accumulation of condensation beneath the roof surface and/or the underlayment, especially in areas subject to freeze-thaw cycles.

Chilling rain and harsh wind

For weather such as heavy rain and harsh wind, both flat and pitched roofs work well. However, each type has advantages and disadvantages. An advantage of a secured flat roof system is it may better resist strong winds compared to a pitched roof; although, flat roofs can be more prone to water leakage after heavy rain.

Pitched roofs can have issues with materials stripping away or even the whole roof lifting and detaching from the structure beneath with harsh winds, such as those associated with tornados. Even though pitched roofs drain more quickly, reducing the risk of water penetration, flat roof systems are more practical for larger spans due to the associated costs and aesthetic considerations. The critical issue with any flat roof is ensuring any seams/laps and penetrations are watertight.

Aesthetic issues will play a more significant role in selection of pitched roof systems. Tile, slate, shake, shingle can metal can be excellent options. Underlayment is a significant component of a pitched roof. #15 felt is the typical underlayment for a shingle roof, with #30 felt the standard for other pitched roof systems.

Numerous excellent materials are available for flat roof systems. Depending on climate and potential weather conditions, various types of available systems may be more suitable. Options include PVC (polyvinyl-chloride), TPO (thermoplastic polyolefin), EPDM (ethylene propylene diene monomer), APP (atactic polypropylene) or SBS (styrene-butadiene-styrene) modified bitumen, SPF (spray polyurethane foam) and other types of roll products.

Initial cost, durability and suitability for local climate conditions are the primary factors when considering which type of flat roof system to install.

Mostly dry but freezing cold

The Southwest has a reputation as a desert climate. However, this is a somewhat limiting description. Elevations and topography range from high desert to wooded mountains, low desert and more. Temperature extremes and rapidly changing weather conditions significantly impact roof systems. Both pitched and flat roof systems are common on commercial structures.

Even though the Southwest tends to be drier, condensation can still accumulate in low areas of flat roof systems. During the colder months, the lack of heat from the sun slows water evaporation. This provides more potential for water penetration and leaks in the building. Any of the previously mentioned options are available for pitched and flat roofs, and will serve well depending on suitability for local climate conditions.

Building owners and managers want to consider how local climate conditions impact the durability and water-tightness of the roof systems on their properties. Reaching out to a local roofing service is beneficial during the decision-making process to ensure installation and/or maintenance of a durable and aesthetically pleasing cost-effective roof system.

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