How Do Freeze-Thaw Cycles Affect Asphalt Roofs?

The asphalt shingle roof over your head plays an important role in protecting your family from the elements—however, that does not mean nature won’t take a toll on it. During the time between cold winters and warm springs, a natural phenomenon known as the freeze-thaw cycle can cause both wear and tear as well as long-term damage to roofing. Here’s an overview of what the freeze-thaw cycle is and how it can harm your asphalt roof.

What Is the Freeze-Thaw Cycle?

Water molecules expand when they freeze—and the ones in the gaps of your asphalt roof are no exception. As a result, the roofing materials will expand when the temperature drops. However, the ice will melt back into the water after the temperature rises again. In turn, the roofing materials will contract. When this happens at a rapid pace and causes fast expansions and contractions to occur, it is known as thermal shock. 

Thermal shock and the freeze-thaw cycle can lead to several complications. For one, asphalt roofs are composed of different parts that expand and contract at varying rates. However, other parts of the same material can heat separately, causing serious problems in the process.

How Does the Freeze-Thaw Cycle Harm Asphalt Roofs?

Water molecules’ constant expansion and contraction can place severe stress and pressure on roofing materials. When this occurs, it can cause cracks and splits that culminate in severe damage. Additionally, the older the roofing material is, the faster it will be deteriorated by the process. As a result, the freeze-thaw cycle is a major contributor to premature roof failures.

Another way that the rapid freezing and thawing can damage your asphalt roof is through ice damming. Warmth in the attic can cause uneven heating on the roof that melts the snow resting on top. However, it will refreeze once it reaches the roof’s edge and forms a ledge. An ice dam can cause water leaks, and the weight may cause the gutters to fall off entirely.

Can the Freeze-Thaw Cycle Be Prevented?

As you can see, the freeze-thaw cycle can wreak havoc on a roof. But is it possible to prevent the expansions and contractions from occurring? In some ways, yes. By removing the snow—either by yourself or with the help of a professional—you can avoid the effects of ice damming. Ensuring that your attic is properly ventilated will help it maintain a more consistent and even temperature.

However, completely eliminating the freeze-thaw cycle is a tad more complicated—after all, it is caused by nature itself. One way homeowners can keep their asphalt roofs safe from thermal shock is by scheduling regular inspections and maintenance. This will ensure that it is kept in good condition and is especially beneficial for colder climates where the freeze-thaw cycle is a more frequent occurrence.

If you’re looking for 24-hour roof repairs, you can always rely on Union Roofing for assistance. Our business offers a variety of services and installations, including vinyl siding in Philadelphia. Reach out to us today to learn more and schedule your appointment.


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An attractive roof enhances curb appeal and boosts property value. Let the experts at Union Roofing meet your roofing needs with superior products and unparalleled service. Find out why we are the best roofing company in New Jersey and Pennsylvania, earning top ratings with Angie’s List, Google Reviews, and Home Advisor. Contact Union Roofing today for a free, no-obligation consultation!

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