Freezing Rain: How to Protect Your Roof

From shoveling snow to dealing with icy roads and bad weather, winter can be a challenging time of the year. One of the most problematic weather conditions that can occur is freezing rain. This can cause danger to people and to their homes as well.

Rain Snow Sleet Freezing Rain Diagram

What Is Freezing Rain?

Freezing rain occurs when there is a layer of warm, moist air over a coat of colder air at the surface. This can happen when a warm front moves over an area that is already experiencing cold temperatures. The warm air melts the snowflakes falling from the clouds creating rain. When the temperature at the surface level is below freezing, the raindrops that fall from the clouds freeze upon impact, creating a layer of ice over your roof, gutters, trees, or vehicles.

Freezing rain is dangerous for your roof, even more so than hail or sleet. When freezing rain falls, it can flow into the small crevices of the roof and continue to freeze as the temperature drops. The ice will start to expand and can push against the shingles, causing them to break or crack. This will lead to leaks or other types of damage to your roof that will be costly to repair. Freezing rain can also cause ice damming. As the rain hits the gutters, layers of ice build up, creating an ice dam, and water will pool behind the ice and backflow under the shingles. As the water freezes and expands, the seal of the shingle is compromised and water can get into the space where the underlayment overlaps. The water and ice penetrates the roof decking and ultimately into the attic space of the building. Over time, your decking will begin to mold and will compromise the whole roofing system.

Icicles and Ice Dams

Another concern freezing rain can bring is the formation of icicles. Ice and snow can melt off the roof and refreeze as they hang off the eaves forming icicles. Although icicles can be very pretty to look at, they can also be dangerous. The weight of the icicles can cause damage to the gutters, downspouts, and even the roof itself.

Another issue icicles can cause is ice damming. An ice dam is a thick structure of ice that has built up over time along the eaves of a roof. Snow can melt on a roof and run down to the edges before refreezing when it hits the colder air near the gutters. This build-up can create a dam that prevents water from flowing off the roof, causing the water to be trapped and pool behind the ice and backflow. Left unattended, ice damming will cause leaks, loose shingles, and torn or damaged gutters. Inside the house, homeowners will begin to notice stained or sagging ceilings, peeling paint, warped floors, or soggy insulation.

Can Freezing Rain be Hazardous?

Yes! According to the Federal Highway Administration, nearly 70 percent of the U.S. population lives in snowy regions, and each year, 24% of weather-related accidents occur on snowy, slushy, or icy pavement. Freezing rain can create a dangerous layer of ice on roads, sidewalks, and other surfaces. This can lead to accidents and delays on highways and other roads. In 2022 for the state of Iowa, according to the Iowa Crash Analytics Tool, out of the 53,349 vehicle-related accidents, 6,595 (or 12.3%) were related to ice and snow.

Freezing rain can also cause significant problems for other things like power lines and trees. The weight of the ice can cause trees to break, which can lead to power outages. If your state uses wind power, the ice build-up on the turbine blades can substantially reduce aerodynamic efficiency resulting in a substantial power reduction.

Preparing for Freezing Rain

Here are a few things you can do to prepare for the freezing rain and ensure your family stays safe as well as reduce the need to travel.

  • Check the forecast and be aware of any warnings in your area.
  • Stock your food pantry with non-perishable food items in case you lose power.
  • Buy bottled water in case your pipes freeze, or you don’t have access to water.
  • Fill any prescriptions and stock up on hygiene items.
  • Make sure any generators are working properly and are filled with fresh gas.

Preparing for the Cold Weather

Preparing for the winter season requires a few checks and improvements to ensure you aren’t paying for costly damage down the road.

  1. Check your attic insulation: Insulation can help keep heat inside your home, which will prevent snow and ice from melting off your roof and forming ice dams. To help you know when it needs to be replaced, check your insulation depth regularly. Homes should have 12-14 inches of fiberglass or cellulose insulation, according to most building codes.
  2. Improve roof ventilation: Proper ventilation can help keep the roof temperature consistent, which helps prevent ice and snow from melting. To help your roof and attic maintain a constant, cool temperature, add soffit vents and ventilation strips to the eaves or check to ensure they aren’t clogged. Learn more about roof ventilation.
  3. Keep trees trimmed: Make sure your trees are properly stabilized by the time winter hits. Big trees close to homes should be trimmed and away from the house to prevent damage. The weight of the ice could cause a branch to break off and damage your roof. Pruning eliminates any weak branches that could easily break off.
  4. Use a reliable ice and water guard: Hiring a professional to install an additional layer of protection can save you from a lot of damage and problems with your roof. We recommend using Owens Corning ice and water barriers for these installations. This extra layer of protection is self-sealing and helps keep water from seeping into your installation.
  5. Clear gutters: Another important step to avoid roof damage is to clean out gutters and downspouts of any debris before winter. The fall months bring leaves and other debris that can build up in your gutters and make it hard for water to flow off the roof. Keeping gutters clean can help prevent water from backing up and creating an ice dam or getting into your home.

Your roof is a significant investment and it’s crucial for the protection and integrity of your home. Ignoring needed repairs or replacements can lead to more severe and costly problems down the line. By taking steps now you can save yourself a lot of frustration and money. If you notice any leaking or damage caused by freezing rain it is very important to find a roofing contractor that can perform a building or attic inspection.

If you do have concerns about damage or the condition of your roof, don’t hesitate to call us. We provide free roof evaluations utilizing technology like Verified Data Analytics drone and AI system to more accurately detect and document damage. It’s our mission to help homeowners promptly address any problems to prevent further damage or the need for more expensive repairs in the future.