Can you fix your roof in winter?

Should we do the wrong thing, just to make money?

1446432143Why Sargeant’s Roofing doesn’t work in the Winter

A Common question that circulates around the roofing contractor community is:

“Do we still do business in the cold, because our families need to eat?”

Certainly, the thought crosses our minds every day at this time of year. The customers are more “In Need” of our services in October, and November. The cold makes their shingles more brittle, and they get smaller in size, which makes little holes bigger, little gaps bigger, and little problems into bigger problems.

What may have been a SMALL leak in the July rain, could be a major problem in January when there is 7″ of snow on the roof. This means one could charge a little more at this time of year.

In the Edmonton area, there are over 140 roofing contractors that – if they are any good – stay busy through the summer. This means that by the time all the low hanging fruit is gone, most are busy wrapping up their work around this time of year and are too busy to take on any new work.

Learn how to Choose a Roofing Contractor

The roofing industry in Alberta as a whole is either Too busy or Too slow. We either have TOO MANY guys, or TOO FEW. When its busy, we wish we had 10 more guys, but the problem is:

Are they delivering the kind of quality we want our name attached to?

Then in the winter, you have too few, not enough work to go around and you want to make sure the guys you have given all the training, have enough work to stick around.

Directly, this is not “your problem” as a consumer, however it can have a very direct impact on the quality of work you receive as a homeowner in need of a roof repair.

First, let’s discuss WHY a customer should not want roof work done much later than November 15th.

1. The problem starts simply with the temperatures effect on the shingles.
Roofs are loaded either by the contractor, carrying one bundle of shingles up the roof at a time, over their shoulder up a ladder. This makes them bend, in cold weather, causing them to crack!

They could be loaded by a truck with a conveyor belt but this is more expensive and they workers still can bend them as they carry them across the roof.

Once the shingles are loaded, we have our second problem.

2. When roofers show up to the job in the cold, there is a strong incentive for them to rush the job. It’s Cold, who wants to be out in the cold one minute longer than they have to be? In addition to the cold, the job also becomes more difficult.

– The shingles come in bundles of 20+ shingles, wrapped in plastic and are stored outdoors all year long. This means they are rained on, and moisture gets into the plastic wrapping. So when the bundles are unwrapped first thing the in the morning to do the work. The shingles are frozen together. Meaning the roofers have to drop these 80 pound bundles on the roof or bang them against something to try and separate them. This damages your roof, and the shingles!

– In the summer, shingles have a hard, rubbery, somewhat flimsy feel to them. They bend and move relatively easily. Once it gets colder, they get more stiff, and brittle. They won’t shatter like glass, but they can crack. However, imagine shooting a gun at the shingle, which is what happens with every single nail. When the nail shoots into the shingle it can go right through it. We call this “Blow through”. This is where leaks come from. It would be safe to say that 25% of all the leaky roof problems we see, come from installation done in cold weather, and most of that is from blow through.

– If you have read some of our other infographics you can see, the shingles we use all have some kind of “Sealant strip” on them. Basically a sticky tacky line of tar to seal the shingle to the one below it, so when the wind blows it doesn’t flap up, and allow water up under the shingle. Some even have two strips! Thus one could determine that this is an important feature.When it’s cold, these strips don’t adhere to the shingle below, and may never seal because they don’t get warm until the adhesive is so dirty that it won’t seal. We have seen entire roofs not sealed in, from fall installation in November, where debris like leaves are stuck between the shingles.

– Asphalt Shingles are a complicated science, but the simplified explanation of how they are made, is a strip of rubberized tar, with sand smushed into it. Once it gets cold, these two substances don’t naturally stick together. When you have roofers running up and down your roof in the cold, working with an incentive to rush, and a shorter work day compounding the problem. Scuffs from boots take YEARS off the life of your shingles.

Now all of this information is fine and dandy, but we have told customers this and they still request for us to do a job anyway, just to get them by, or to make the house last through winter because they are selling in the spring. There are plenty of reasons a homeowner might not care if the roof lasts 10 years or 25 years.

So if we can sell the work for more money, and the customer doesn’t care, why wouldn’t we do it?

The answer is simple – Integrity.

We want to run our company with the kind of integrity that money cannot sway us from, and that requires forethought and planning. This is why we hire, train and manage our staff with the expectations that this is seasonal work. We seek out team members that are looking for a trade that can work with their winter careers. This way we provide stable, secure work, for happy paying customers, during their winter jobs slow times, we have a pre-agreed upon time to end the season, so they can provide reliable start times to their winter employers.

This means we can retain our staff, they know where they are working in the summer, and we know that they are not going to resent the job for not providing for them in the winter time. We know that we can stay profitable, and busy, and accountable to our 10 year workmanship guarantee until our last day of work.

We know that in 10 years, many homeowners will still have saved the paperwork from their roofing company for warranty purposes. When issues arise they can brush the dust off, and neighbours will discuss who did their roofs. We don’t always get every home in a given neighbourhood, but we know that 10 years from now, our customers will have the bragging rights of trouble free home ownership because of the work we left behind.

This is what motivates us and the culture we have instilled in our team.