Tips on How to Weatherproof a Roof

Use these expert tips to protect your home. Learn how to keep the elements out and comfort in.
lay de icing cables over shingles

lay de icing cables over shingles

Install de-icing cables to help prevent leaks and damage from ice dams.

Install de-icing cables to help prevent leaks and damage from ice dams.

No matter where you live in the United States, there will be times when you are going to endure harsh natural conditions, which is why waterproofing your home is important. This process begins with the roofing system.

There's probably nothing more important about a home's construction than the roof. When you get into the Midwest and the Northeast, where there's lots of snow and severe temperatures, the concern for the roof is that it will perform well under a wide range of temperatures.

If you live in the Southeast or Southwest, the heat is the largest contributor to degrading the performance of your home's roof. But no matter where you live, the roofing system needs to hold up to repeated seasonal conditions.

In climates with snow accumulation the roof is subject to ice buildups called ice-damming. This occurs when snow is on the roof and the sun comes out and starts to melt the lowest layer of snow "against" the roof. The water runs down the shingles into the gutters, and since the gutters aren't warm, the water freezes again. As the ice cubes build up in the gutters and downspouts, they actually prevent the water from running off the roof. When this happens, the snow melt can work its way back up and under the shingles, leak into your attic, and then down into ceilings and walls.

There are a couple of things you can do to prevent leaking and damage from ice dams:

1. First, insert a water repellent layer under the shingles when building your roof. Then lay de-icing cables over the shingles and loop them through the upper gutters -- and also along the roof in a zigzag pattern to cover as much of the lower roof as possible. The cable also should run down the downspouts.

2. Lastly you'll need to insulate the attic to keep the heat in the interior of the home and help minimize temperature fluxuations on the roof.

Note: The attic is a particularly important place in most houses because it's the barrier between the outside and the ceilings of your home. This is why it's vital that there are NO leaks in the attic or the roof that can come into the interior of your home.

The roof system is also instrumental in fire protection. A significant number of homes are saved because they are made with fireproof materials. If you can, put a roof on that consists of non-flammable materials -- steel metal roof, tiles or asphalt shingles, for example.

Did You Know? Approximately 80 percent of homes that are roofed today in the new construction area are done with fiberglass shingles. Fiberglass shingles are made from a thin layer of fiberglass surrounded and coated in weathering grade asphalt. Specially designed granules are then applied to the surface of fiberglass shingles, providing fire protection and color.

Roof vents are an integral part of the ventilation system and can contribute to the fire protection of your home. Ridge vents are recommended because they help prevent sparks from entering through these openings, though their main function is for ventilation of the roof.

A ridge vent is cut about 1-inch wide at the very top of the roof. They cut through the sheathing, and then put a venting or filter material to prevent moisture and rain from coming in and allow hot air to go out. Then they cap it with shingles right on the ridge of the home.

DIY Constructive Advice: If you live in a climate where strong winds, such as hurricanes, are a concern, metal roofing and strapping are good ideas. Metal roofing, of course, is applied from the bottom up -- and it comes in many shapes or sizes. It can lie horizontally or vertically, which is the most common. Anytime there's a potential for extreme weather conditions that cause stress on the structure of your home, you want to use metal strapping and general metal connections at the key points connecting the roof members to wall members. This is usually code, but adding a little more metal than necessary is always a good idea.

Reinforcing Your Roof

A way to reinforce the bond between the roof and the rest of the house is to do it yourself by gluing your roof directly to the rafters:

  • Cut the nozzle on the adhesive at a 45-degree angle. Make the hole big enough to get a 1/4-inch bead of glue out of the end.
    Note: Make sure your work area is well ventilated because this glue has a very strong odor.
  • Start at the peak of the roof and work your way down the edges, applying the glue on both sides of each rafter.

Next Up

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