If it’s your first winter with your recent roof replacement, you may sometimes notice the insulation within the attic developing water droplets. Normally, you shouldn’t see this “sweat” or condensation from your roof with proper design and maintenance, but it can still happen due to other factors such as the local environment or how you use your home’s heating system.
Either way, condensation shouldn’t be ignored as the moisture buildup can eventually damage your roof’s inner structure. But the solution to your roof moisture still depends on what type of “leak” you’re having on your roof. Our team at LePage and Sons Roofing LLC share their insight.
How Condensation Affects Your Roof
Condensation is caused by too much moisture in the air for a certain temperature. It forms when warm, moist air touches a surface that’s colder than the dew point of the warm air. As that air becomes colder and its temperature drops below its dew point, it releases excess moisture to reach its new and lower dew point. The moisture is released in the form of water droplets, which appear on the colder surface.
Moisture in the air can originate from several things. In fact, even simple acts such as normal breathing and perspiration add three pints of water to the indoor air every day for each person in your home. That means every activity that uses water adds more moisture to the air, including taking showers, cooking, dishwashing and doing laundry.
Types of Condensation to Look Out For
Your roof is vulnerable to condensation anytime warm and moist interior air rising up through your home comes in contact with a cold roof interior. While condensation doesn’t usually warrant an emergency roof repair, you still need to be on the lookout for any signs that indicate this such as moisture drips, which is usually observed during midday when the sun’s shining and the membrane’s temperature is on the rise. Other types of “leaks” or moisture drips include:
- Condensation From Frost Buildup – This is not an actual roof leak nor is it caused by poor workmanship. However, condensation or frost buildup in your attic means you need to eliminate or reduce the amount of air leakage into the attic as well as improve insulation and ventilation to allow moist air to escape the roof.
- Condensation From Ice Dams – This is similar to frost buildup but caused by ice dams, which isn’t workmanship related. As a trusted solar roofing contractor, we suggest a temporary solution to preventing or reducing ice dams by eliminating or reducing the amount of warm air that’s escaping into the attic and melting snow on the roof to the point where it creates glacier-like ice build-up. You can also try to remove the snow before it turns into ice and penetrates the roofing system.
You might also hear cracking noises when walking on your roof during winter (this is just the thin layer of ice breaking), but on structural concrete and sometimes wood planks and plywood, moisture drips aren’t easily observed. However, frozen moisture can still be detected in the form of spongy, buckled, or warped insulation beneath the membrane.
Why Roof Condensation Should Be Taken Seriously
Normally, you’ll first notice condensation on your windows and skylights because they’re the most visible areas of your home. Seeing this means your home’s interiors have excess humidity, which can also indicate that moisture may be causing damage elsewhere in places you won’t immediately see, such as walls, ceilings, floors, and your attic roof.
Condensation can also be a result of poor ventilation or inadequate insulation. If not immediately addressed, excessive indoor humidity can cause blistering and peeling paint, rotting and warping wood, as well as the formation of mold and mildew. This can also worsen during extremely cold temperatures when frost builds upon the underside of your roof sheeting. When the outside temperature rises dramatically, the accumulated frost melts and can mimic a leak, which can be excessive if a lot of frosts have accumulated within your roof. To prevent this from happening, you need to hire a trusted roof replacement contractor to check your whole roofing system and address the issue properly.
Controlling and Preventing Roof Condensation
Installing a dehumidifier is an effective and inexpensive way to reduce the moisture in your home, but also make sure to install exhaust fans in the kitchen, bathrooms, and laundry rooms. The fans should never be discharged into the attic space, as the warm and moist air will result in condensed water vapor freezing onto cold attic materials such as insulation and rafters. This will eventually thaw and result in damage to your inner roofing system. Always make sure that the exhaust fans discharge outside.
If you keep the attic air temperature below freezing when the outside air temperature is in the low 20’s, it can reduce the occurrence of ice dams. This is why professional emergency roof repair contractors often recommend installing adequate insulation since it’s crucial to keeping your home warm.
Proper attic ventilation is also important as it helps keep the attic cool. This means adding more roof vents such as box vents, turbine vents, and ridge vents (if necessary) to allow the warm air to escape the attic space and reduce condensation issues. You may also want to install foundation vents or leave a basement window a bit open during fall or early winter to ventilate your basement or crawl space.
You also need to keep your roof’s soffit vents free from obstructions. This is to allow the natural flow of cool outside air into the attic space and replace the warmer attic air that rises and flows outside your ridge or roof vents. This flow of air will also keep your attic cool and free of moisture buildup.
For record-keeping purposes, we suggest keeping a historical file on your roofing system that contains a detailed history of the roof installation, repairs and changes, and a maintenance plan. Having this should help you stay on top of the situation when your roof condensation problems still persist.