10 Causes of Some Winter Roof Leaks in Minnesota

Minnesota homeowners have enough to deal with in the winter months, but figuring out the causes of some winter roof leaks can put you over the edge. Identifying the source of the leak and minimizing the damage can feel overwhelming without the help of a pro. 

The good news is that winter roof leaks are caused by a handful of common issues. With a little bit of research and a few preventative measures, you can save yourself the time, energy, and stress that results from a winter roof leak.

Is your home winter-proof? Follow our checklist to properly winterize your home to keep your family warm and safe.

10 Causes of Some Winter Roof Leaks

Although roof leaks can happen at any time in the year, causes of some winter roof leaks can be trickier to spot and are often due to an entirely different set of issues. In some cases winter storm damage can be the cause, but often the contrast in temperature between the inside and outside of your home has a lot to do with it. The change in temperature results in excess condensation and the formation of ice dams among other types of damage.

Ice Dams

One of the most common causes of winter roof leaks are ice dams. These dams are an all-too-familiar phenomenon of winter for Minnesota homeowners. Ice dams are the thick layers of ice that form at the edge of your roof, resulting from melting snow on the roof that then freezes as it reaches the colder eaves of the roof.

Once you form this frozen roof water dam, it becomes more difficult for water and snow to drain off of your roof. When water is pushed back up and underneath your shingles, it can enter your home. When left to accumulate, ice dams can result in significant damage to your gutters, shingles, and overall structural integrity of your home, which is why it’s imperative to properly remove your ice dams.

Attic Condensation

The difference in temperature between your home’s living space and attic can be stark in the winter, especially if your attic is not properly insulated.

What can happen is the warm, heated air from your home rises to the attic and condenses as it cools. This roof condensation in winter forms droplets that can then collect on your rafters, insulation, and ceiling. This condensation on the ceiling in winter gives the appearance of a leak in the roof. Over time, the beams and rafters can develop mildew and mold and even start to sag and pose a structural risk to your home.

Regularly inspect your attic for signs of condensation and call a professional to ensure proper insulation.

Damaged or Missing Shingles

Severe storms can lead to hail-damaged siding and roofing, a primary cause of water leaking from the roof. Most shingles have a coating of granules that protects them from the elements, and if these granules become loose or completely worn off, the shingles are more likely to allow water in and cause roof leaks.

Shingles that are missing granules entirely pose an even greater risk of allowing water to seep in. A good indicator is if your roof is leaking during heavy rain. Some shingle damage is tough to spot; if your roof is leaking but the shingles look good, call in a professional for a roof inspection.

Don’t risk further damage; let MEI’s experienced team help with all your roofing needs.

Clogged Gutters

Even if your gutters have guards on them, falling leaves and other debris can easily pile up and cause drainage issues. During the wintertime, melting snow and ice can back up and seep under the shingles, entering your attic. To avoid a leak in your roof from clogged gutters, make sure to clear them from debris at least twice per year.

Structural Water Damage

If your roof is leaking over an extended period of time, the core structural components of your home are at risk. This is why early detection and repair is so important. Condensation in your roof can collect on the rafters and support beams, moving down the walls and leading to mold and dry rot. The longer it’s allowed to sit, the more your home is at risk of structural problems.

Exhaust Fans

If you have water leaking from a vent in the ceiling during rain, it’s likely an opening in your roof causing water to get in. But if you have a roof vent leak that is consistent throughout the winter, it may just be your exhaust fan. Bathroom exhaust fans are the biggest culprits due to the frequently warm and humid environment.

This warm air is pulled up through the vent and condenses, freezes, and then melts in what looks like a leak from the roof. To prevent a leak from your exhaust fan, have your roof regularly inspected including a check on all dampers.

Compromised or Poor Flashing

If water is dripping from the soffit or flashing, that could be an indicator that they are compromised. Both elements help to seal your home by sealing off edges and gaps, and without them, melting snow or frost on a roof can leak through to the interior of your home. To fix a leak in a roof due to compromised or poor flashing, you’ll want to hire professionals. They’ll do a thorough inspection of the roof, indicating all areas of damage and making the necessary replacements.

Exposed Nailheads

When a roof is correctly installed by professionals, no nailhead will be exposed. The shingles are laid down in a precise layered pattern with the final roofing nail on the very top edge sealed completely.

In winter climates especially, exposed nailheads can rust or shift over time. It may not seem possible, but even tiny nail holes can lead to water entering your home and causing damage. When getting your roof replaced, and especially after storm damage, make sure you work with a roofing professional you can trust to do the job right.

Low Slope Roof Style

One of the roof leaks causes that is less well known is your roof pitch. Homes in cold weather climates often have shared characteristics like a higher-pitched roof.

This steeper roof style is designed to help water and snow drain off the roof more efficiently. More flat roofs will be slower to drain water and snow, and can even allow for pooling of water in certain areas. While you can’t easily change the pitch of your roof if you have one with a low slope, you can take preventative measures to ensure snow and ice melt off properly.

Shingles Nearing End of Life

No matter what material your shingles are made of, they all have corresponding lifespans to keep in mind. Shingles age due to sun, wind, and especially harsh weather.

In the Midwest, asphalt shingles are the most common and have a layer of granules on top of them for protection from exposure to the elements. Over time, those granules will fall off, exposing your shingles and in some cases allowing water to get through. The condition of your shingles is hard to evaluate on your own, so call the professionals for a regular inspection to make sure yours are still in good shape.

Person shoveling snow off the roof of their home

Interested in upgrading your exterior? Minnesota Exteriors financing services can help transform your home.

What To Do If You Have Winter Roof Leaks

If you are experiencing frost on the ceiling or a ceiling leak from rain or snow melt, you may be feeling a sense of helplessness when it comes to finding a solution. Work with a professional roofer to determine the best course of action. If an immediate replacement isn’t possible, they may be able to suggest a solution you can implement in the short term.

To avoid ice dams and standing water, take preventative measures or hire a professional to add extra insulation in areas with gaps or insufficient insulation.

  • Find a Temporary Solution: If you are noticing condensation in your attic, install a fan to keep the air moving, and remove any ice dams that begin to form on your roof immediately
  • Call a Professional For Roof Inspection: Reach out to a roofing company for regular inspections to check the health of your shingles and roof
  • Take Care of Leaks Early: Don’t wait to have a professional out if you’re experiencing a leak; acting quickly can minimize the long-term damage

How to Prevent Some Winter Roof Leaks

The best, most efficient way to prevent winter roof leaks is to have regular inspections by a roofing professional. They will easily identify any potential weak spots or damage and make recommendations to prevent leaks from ever happening. There are also some easy maintenance items you can incorporate into your spring and fall cleanup, like removing debris from your gutters and checking your attic for any condensation or wet pieces of insulation. Take a peek at some of our other top recommendations for preventing winter roof leaks.

  • Get A Roof Inspection: Incorporate a yearly inspection of your roof to evaluate the overall health and identify any areas of concern
  • Clean Your Gutters: Keep your gutters free from leaves, sticks, and other debris to allow for easy water drainage. If you work with professionals like MEI, you can even get gutter screens installed to keep the gutters clear and easy to clean
  • Check For Water Damage: Check your ceilings and walls for any areas of discoloration, which is a sign of moisture
  • Leave Work to The Pros: While some DIY work can be fun and rewarding, high-stakes work like roof and gutter replacements should be left to the professionals to ensure water is properly flowing away from your home
  • Regularly Check Your Attic: Bring a flashlight up to your attic and check for any signs of condensation on the rafters or insulation
  • Remove Ice Dams: Eliminate those pesky ice dams before they become too big and impossible to remove.
  • Install A Drip Edge: To help direct water towards your gutters and prevent ice dams, install a metal drip edge at the perimeter of your roof

Be Winter Ready: Schedule Your FREE Roof Inspection From Minnesota Exteriors

Don’t wait until you are stuck having to repair a roof leak. Be ready for the winter months by getting your roof professionally inspected regularly and determine potential causes of some winter roof leaks before they happen. Roofing professionals can assess the overall health of your roof and identify any areas of concern.

With over 75 years of roofing experience and the quality craftsmanship you can trust, Minnesota Exteriors is the premier choice in the state for roofing, siding, gutters, and more. Contact us for your free roof inspection today! You’ll be glad you did.