Winter Roofing Pros & Cons: Installing Asphalt Shingles in Cold Weather

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Winter Roofing Pros & Cons: Installing Asphalt Shingles in Cold Weather

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Winter Roofing Pros & Cons: Installing Asphalt Shingles in Cold Weather

winter roofing safety

While it is most common to see roofers out and about installing new roofs in the spring, summer, and fall months, sometimes unforeseen circumstances leave you with no choice but to replace your roof during the winter. Should this happen to you, there is no need to panic. You can still get a quality roof installation as long as you choose a professional roofing company that understands how to overcome the challenges of winter roofing.

winter roofing

The main risk factors involved in winter shingle installation revolve around two aspects, the materials and the people who install them. The shingles themselves become susceptible to cracks and breaks, the likelihood for “cold curling” increases, and you run the risk of poor sealant activation. Roofing is a physically demanding job and roofing in the winter presents a greater danger to the roofing crew. The ability to maneuver around the roof safely and install shingles with precision becomes increasingly difficult when battling below-freezing temperatures. The crew’s tools such as nail guns and compressors may become obstructed by ice in the lines and greater attention must be paid to ensure they are functioning properly. 

Cold, Brittle Shingles are Susceptible to Cracks and Breaks

Broken shingle

In colder temperatures the shingle material becomes less flexible, making it more difficult to bend and cut. This makes it especially difficult to install shingles with the racking method, which requires the lifting or bending of the shingles to place the last nail. This is especially problematic with shingles laid on valleys, hips, and ridge caps, as these areas require the highest degree of shingle manipulation. If the shingles become brittle you also run the risk of nails cracking the shingles or being overdriven if your roofer isn’t familiar with best practices for pressure calibration. 

To avoid cold, brittle shingles your roofing professional should store them in a heated area above 70 degrees Fahrenheit for a minimum of 24 hours prior to installation. They should be familiar with how to make the necessary adjustments to their equipment and should take extra care when walking around on freshly installed shingles, as they are more susceptible to breakage underfoot. 

Winter Curling or “Cold Curl”

curling shingle

The tendency of a shingle’s front edge to lift up slightly from the roof decking when it’s cold is known as winter curling or, “cold curl”. This phenomenon has always existed and the degree to which the curl is evident depends on many factors. While this does not cause any damage to the shingles themselves or their capabilities, the wavy look is unpleasant to some homeowners There is no way to resolve this issue until warmer temperatures arrive, causing the shingles to heat up to a point where they become flexible and forced by gravity to lie flat. 

Poor Activation of Shingle Sealant 

This is by far the greatest concern for homeowners and roofing crews installing shingles in cold weather. All shingles have a strip of adhesive glue that activates at a certain temperature. This adhesive is crucial for preventing wind damage and if it doesn’t set properly you run the risk of issues later on down the line. If the adhesive does not activate, your roofing crew may have to hand seal your shingles. 

hand sealing shingle

Hand sealing is done by applying roofing cement or other manufacturer recommended adhesive under every shingle with a caulking gun and then pressing the shingles down into the cement. Cold weather also increases the risk of snow or water getting underneath the shingles during application, which can cause the adhesive to malfunction. Experienced roofing crews will often have a heat gun with them during hand sealing to ensure a dry application. 

While hand sealing is a perfectly acceptable solution, it does take a lot longer and requires additional care and attention to detail. 

Understand Manufacturers Recommendations

While most shingle manufacturers provide recommendations for ideal installation temperatures, they also state that you can indeed install their product in lower (or higher) temperatures if correct precautions are taken and procedures are followed. It will be important to choose a roofing company that has experience installing your particular product in cold weather, as the recommendations differ by manufacturer. 

Owens Corning recommends that their shingles be installed in temperatures above 40 degrees Fahrenheit and offers a guide outlining specific recommendations should you need to install their product in lower temperatures. 

GAF also recommends that their shingles be installed in temperatures above 40 degrees Fahrenheit but states that “theoretically, there is no lower or upper-temperature limit governing when asphalt fiberglass shingles may be applied as long as appropriate precautions are taken” in their GAF Technical Advisory Bulletin. This bulletin also provides suggestions for easier installation and damage prevention during colder temperature installations. 

Malarkey too recommends installing their shingles at temperatures above 40 degrees Fahrenheit, however, they have a very detailed guide complete with recommendations for hand sealing procedures as well as added tips for a flawless installation. 

Winter Roofing Safety

winter roofing safety

Working outside in the winter is challenging at best and battling winter weather conditions can prove to be not only uncomfortable for your roofing crew but potentially hazardous as well. It is imperative that you choose a roofing company whose team has precautions in place for fall protection, understands the signs of frostbite and hypothermia and has procedures in place for de-icing and snow removal.

As a homeowner, it is important for you to understand that the job will take longer than usual to complete. Being empathetic and patient with your roofing crew will go a long way both for their morale and ultimately for the quality of your roof installation.  

At Kapella Roofing, our team of roofing professionals have been installing roofs in Colorado winters for over three decades. We are well versed in proper handling and installation techniques and always ensure that our worker’s safety comes first. Jot down 303-619-7640 now because you never know when you might find yourself in need of a winter roof replacement!

Jeremy Frederickson
Jeremy Frederickson
Jeremy has been in the home improvement industry for over 5 years. He specializes in exterior remodeling, roofing, gutters, windows, siding, attic insulation and entry doors. Jeremy started his career in Chicago and has worked with many homeowners to complete their home restoration projects successfully. Jeremy has a great deal of integrity; displaying honesty and fairness in his client relationships and produces quality results. In his spare time, he enjoys watching and playing sports, riding his bike and playing with his rescue pup, William.

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