Help, I have a leak! Can you fix my roof in the winter?

At All Elements we receive calls all winter long about leaks on flat roofs. We can fix many winter leaks, but not all of them. A variety of factors come into play.

Winter temperatures can be too low for some roofing adhesives and caulks. Most adhesives specify a minimum temperature of 40 degrees Fahrenheit. There are products with colder minimums for some roof types, and a sunny 30 degree day can feel much warmer on a roof. Ultimately, each leak has to be handled on a case-by-case basis to determine whether a repair will be successful.

Ice and snow hide water below. Much like a Minnesota lake in the winter, once you shovel away  the snow and cut through the ice, you find water. That will stop a repair cold (pun intended).

On a built-up roof (also known as tar and gravel), getting the ice, snow, frost and all moisture out of the top layer is critical to making a successful patch. Sometimes strategic use of a blower, sweeping, scraping and hot air can clear things up sufficiently;  other times the water created while melting the area runs back into the repair area and it stays too wet.

Snow, rain, sleet or freezing fog can make repairs on rubber roofs difficult. Primer and adhesives do not adhere in moist conditions. If precipitation is falling while we try to clean, prime, and apply adhesives to a rubber roof, the moisture beads up and becomes trapped between the layers of rubber. This causes blisters when the weather warms up.

TPO  and PVC roofs are typically patched with a hot air tool, so we encounter all of the same limitations as on a built-up roof, but to a lesser degree. TPO and PVC roofs have a higher success rate for winter repairs because when you shovel off the snow and clear up the ice there is not typically a layer of standing water at the bottom. If the roof can be cleared and cleaned it can usually be repaired.

Metal panel roofs have another critical factor: safety. A layer of snow or ice on a low-slope metal roof creates a very slippery surface. However, if the roof can be safely accessed it can frequently be successfully repaired.

As soon as you notice any leaking, please give us a call regardless of the weather. Once we've talked about what type of roof you have and what kind of problems you're experiencing, we'll have a better sense of your situation and we'll be happy to get you on the schedule as soon as possible for evaluation and repair.

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