Most homeowners, who did not have a chance to replace their leaking roofs during spring and summer want to get it done in the fall – before the cold weather arrives. August, September and October are the busiest months of the year for a roofing contractor (for us at least) we get many calls and online estimate requests from homeowners looking to install a new IB Flat Roof or a Metal Roof on their home. At least 75 percent of these inquiries mention that they would like to have a new roof installed before the winter.
While we do understand your desire to have a new roof before winter weather comes, I must point out a misconception among many homeowners who believe that a roof can only be installed during the warm months. While this is partially true, due to limitations of specific roof types (technologies), for us, installing our roof systems in the winter is the same as it is in the summer – just a little colder.
In fact, WINTER, is the best time for homeowners to have a new roof installed, as you will get the best roof prices, as well as a choice of the best roofing contractors. Because work is limited during the winter season, contractors compete for work and lower their prices to get the job. However, be aware that some roofs can’t or should not be installed in the winter – read on to find out what you should know about winter roofing, and which roofing materials should not be installed in the cold weather.
Which roofs can be installed in the winter and which cannot be:
Let’s take a look at the roofing systems which can be installed in the winter without compromising quality, and the systems that need to be installed in the warmer weather.I will divide roofing systems into two categories – flat and sloped roofs. Also, lets establish that by “winter” I mean temperatures below 40 degrees F.
When it comes to flat roofing, there are only two systems that can be safely installed in the winter – PVC and TPO. These are thermoplastic single ply flat roofing products, which are installed using Hot Air Welded seams, instead of various types of adhesives.
In the winter, glues and adhesives will freeze, which will distort their chemical composition in one way or another, which can and will cause premature failure. This is why most, if not all liquid roofing products (be it adhesives, or liquid-applied roofs, such as acrylic or urethane coatings) should not even be stored under 40 degree F temperatures – never mind installed in cold weather.
PVC and TPO on the other hand are attached to the deck using mechanical assembly with heavy duty screws and plates, and all seams are sealed using Hot Air welding equipment, which usually operates at 800-1100 degrees F. Such high temperatures ensure that even during cold winter months, all seam welds will not be affected by the outside temperature. I do have to mention though that PVC and TPO roofs are not equal or identical. They are only similar in how they look and are installed. Besides that, PVC and TPO roofs are very different in terms of material composition, quality and longevity. I encourage you to read our PVC vs. TPO roof comparison.
The following flat roof systems should not (cannot) be installed in the winter
– Modified Bitumen (cold applied or torch applied)
– Any type of Peal-n-Stick flat roofing products, such as GAF Liberty or similar.
The three roof types listed above represent some of the most common roofing systems available on the market today. All these systems are installed using adhesives (except torch applied Mod. Bit. roof) and therefore installing them in the winter will result in leaks and potential roof blow-off.
In the case of Rubber roofs, the entire system is usually installed with several different adhesives (one to glue rubber to the insulation, one for the seams, special seam primers and cleaners, etc.) and EVERY rubber roof manufacturer explicitly points out that their roof should not be installed in temps below 40 degrees. I encourage you to read the following heated discussion on Roofing.com forums about flat roofing in frigid north where many contractors, including some from New England, will insist that Rubber can be installed in the winter, by pre-warming the glue and working when the sun is out, so it would warm up the black rubber membrane, for better adhesion. I also was talking to one of the sales reps for a big rubber roof “private label” distributor, who was telling me that winter months installation should be timed perfectly – all glue applied between 10 am and 2 pm, only when the sun is out, and then the seams can be done between 2 and 5 pm, provided that all glues and primers are kept warm. My take on it is the following: Rubber roof manufacturers clearly state that such roofs should not be installed in less than 40 degree temperatures. Reps will encourage their contractors to install in the winter, because they make a sales commission and contractors will install because they need to stay busy, all the while violating installation specs. The only one at a disadvantage is you – the roof owner and here is why.
Because rubber roof installers have to go through so many additional hustles to install rubber in the winter, while still charging their normal rates or even less (because competition is fierce and there is not enough work to go around), they will have to cut SO many corners to stay a bit profitable. Therefore, what you get is a roof that was installed outside of manufacturers specifications, frustrated roofers installing it, and potentially frozen adhesives and glue, which will most likely result in roof leaks, and warranty claims would likely be denied. Despite the fact that PVC is far superior to the above roof types, if you still choose to have a rubber roof installed (for financial reasons for example), do not do it in the winter.
Peel and Stick roofing systems and underlayment should not be installed in the winter for obvious reasons – they will not properly stick to the roof deck or base ply, making leaks or even blow-off almost certain. Such roofs should ONLY be installed during warmer months of the year.
When it comes to sloped roofs, the choices are many and very few at the same time. Basically you have asphalt shingles, metal roofing, and other very rare types of materials, which usually cost at least as much as metal or more. These are Slate, Tile, Synthetic slate, Cedar shingle or shakes, and that is about it. Since asphalt shingle is the most used type of material (merely because it is the cheapest roof you can find) rivaled by metal roofs on the premium side, I will only consider these two types for comparison.
Asphalt shingles can be installed in the winter, but extreme care must be taken by roofers installing it, not to bend and crack the shingle, as well as not to trap moisture under them. However, during winter installations, both of these rules are frequently ignored by roofers, causing premature roof failures. Also, because asphalt shingle roofs are highly dependent on the proper seal between the overlapping shingles, which requires solar heat to melt the seal strip, such roofs installed in the winter, often do not seal properly until warm weather rolls around, causing them to leak, and as a result, wood rot often develops under a brand new roof.
Another major limitation of asphalt shingles is its weakness against Ice Dams. Ice and Water (I&W) shield is the most commonly used method to prevent ice dam leaks. First of all I&W fails about 25 percent the time, and because it also requires sun’s heat to properly adhere to the roof deck, in the winter, moisture develops between roof sheeting and underside of ice & water underlayment potentially making it useless.
Metal Roofs on the other hand can easily be installed in the winter without any compromises to quality. First of all, a metal roof sheds water and ice, minimizing ice buildup on the roof. Also, the interlocking design prevents water from traveling upward. All this renders the ice & water shield useless. At the same time it prevents the proper breathing (ventilation) of the roof deck, which shortens its service life. And the ultimate goal is that the roof deck lasts as long as the metal roof over it, which in the case of aluminum shingles is a very long time. Therefore, unless you or the building inspector want Ice & Water to be there, I think it is best not to put it on. We use a premium breathable synthetic underlayment – GAF DeckShiled which makes the roof watertight even without a metal roof over it, and helps the wood “breath”.
Cold weather also does not affect metal roofs, as they won’t crack due to “improper handling” and metal roofs are designed to allow for expansion and contraction, so the outside temperatures won’t make a difference.
As you can see, IB PVC roofs and Metal roofing systems are the best systems to have installed, year round!
New Roof Installation in New England
If you are looking to replace your flat or sloped roof, we invite you to look at jobs we’ve done around New England. You can also fill out our Roof Estimate request form to get a free price quote for replacing your roof, or use our interactive roofing price calculator to estimate the cost of your new roof.
We constantly update these pages, adding jobs we’ve done recently and those that were done some time ago. It is a slow process as we try to describe each job in as many details, and point out certain common roofing problems and how we overcome them. Soon we will add roofs that we have completed in Rhode Island and New Hampshire, as well as more MA and CT roofing jobs.
Some Massachusetts and Connecticut roofs we’ve installed in the winter
Flat roof in Lowell, MA -Here we removed an old EPDM rubber roof, which shrunk and pulled away from the walls and roof edges. We replaced it with a new IB PVC flat roofing membrane, and added 4″ of ISO insulation to improve weather-tightness and energy efficiency of this home.
Flat roof in Andover, CT – This roof was installed right in the middle of a brutal snow storm, which overtook New England for almost two weeks, and temperatures reached as low as -16 degrees F. There, the homeowner, with help of his buddies, removed the old roof, fixed the roof deck, and covered the roof with a tarp. We had to quickly come in and install a new 50-mil IB roof, right before another snow storm hit.
Metal Roof in Brighton, MA – an new aluminum shingles metal roof was installed on a roof of a very busy IHOP restaurant, while it was open for business. This large roofing project involved complete removal and replacement of old metal shingles, all plywood decking, which was mostly rotted, replacement of some rafters and installation of a new GAF Deck Armor underlayment and a new metal roof. Due to many major snow storms during that winter, this project took almost two months to complete.