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The Dramatic Affect Climate Changes Have on Your Roof

Posted on 27 September, 2013 at 11:29
This drama has it all: Life, Death, Intrigue, Heroism, Betrayal, Romance... Okay, maybe not romance (except for the very weird...)
Few of us think about it on a daily basis, but our roof happens to be an unsung hero in our everyday lives. When functioning properly, it offers invaluable protection from all sorts of harmful effects nature brings our way. In doing so, your roof is absorbing those affects and in turn, the damage that comes with it. If you think about it, most roof surfaces are composites of materials found in nature- Asphalt, plastics, cement and metal. All of which are subject to wear and break-down over time. When they do break down and fail, that heroism can turn to betrayal in an instant! Most often however, its not really nature's fault - Its our own failure to properly maintain this silent protector. That's why regular roof checkups- especially in between seasons- can prevent catastrophe and sleepless nights.
I'll focus on the most common material used on most roofs - Asphalt. Not only is it a common surface material, but its also the most common base material used beneath all other roof surfaces.
We've all experienced problems with asphalt on our streets. In many cities, that breakdown and wear I spoke of is very evident in road conditions. In Tucson, AZ, near where I live, keeping up with the endless maze of street failures seems to be a never ending and losing battle. While heavy traffic is partly to blame, the bigger culprit may be the extreme changes in our local weather. And the asphalt on our roof suffers the same fate. A couple obvious hazards are rain and UV rays from the sun. What some may not realize is how damaging the effect is of constant expansion and contraction each season has on these asphalt products. Its part of elementary science that plastic and asphalts expand during periods of extreme heat and shrink back with very cold temperatures. During our summer monsoons, its possible for asphalt temperatures to change by 60 degrees or more in a matter of minutes when rain begins falling on a sun soaked roof. But the gradual roof temperature changes from summer to winter are much more dramatic. Here in the desert, Asphalt temperatures peak somewhere near 150 degrees during the hottest summer hours, then fall into the low teens during our coldest winter days! Much of the resulting damage is very visible, while some can only be seen with a very trained eye. While we mostly associate rain and heat as doing the most damage, cold weather contraction is when most of the real damage actually occurs. A recent University of Oregon study on climate's effects on asphalt noted:
"At lower temperatures even the normally fluid non-polar molecules begin to organize into a structured form. Combined with the already-structured polar molecules, this makes asphalt more rigid and likely to fracture rather than deform elastically under stress."  (http://classes.engr.oregonstate.edu/cce/winter2012/). 
In other words, while many roof failures can be attributed to rain and heat, its the cold that causes most cracking. This affects all asphalt, including the ones hiding below the surface of your non-asphalt tile, clay, composite or steel roof.
Making an assessment of your roof's condition- while necessary- can be a tricky proposition. It usually requires a skilled, experienced and HONEST professional to do so. I've been doing these types of check-ups since the late 1970's. In fact, a couple of my current customers were my Dad's customers in the 1960's!  While there are a good number of other very qualified professionals you can call on to check yours, just make certain the one evaluating your roof has the expertise and integrity to do so.

Categories: Roof Repair Tips

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