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The Best Types of Roofing for Alberta Winters

This blog was originally published on December 3, 2015, but was updated in September of 2020.

Alberta is famous for a lot of things: The Calgary Stampede, West Edmonton Mall, and, of course, our record-breaking cold temperatures. Enduring harsh winters can be tough on our roofs, leading to cracking, leaking, and insulation concerns. And the truth is, Alberta’s winters and temperature swings lessen the life of all roofs, no matter the product.

Roofing concerns in cold weather

Alberta winters are extremely hard on roofing materials. Some of the main culprits for damaging your roof are:

  • Sub-zero temperatures (Alberta has a record low of -61.6 °C!): Low temperatures can impact some roofing materials, causing them to become brittle or crack.
  • Heavy snowfall: Snow is extremely heavy, especially when wet, and can cause severe damage to your roof materials and system if the snow builds up and becomes too much to support.
  • Harsh winds, blizzards, and hail: The recent hailstorm in Calgary this July caused more than $1.2 billion in damages. Hail and heavy wind can physically damage and dent roofing materials, and strong winds may dislodge shingles if not securely fastened. 
  • Freeze/thaw cycle: When water pools on areas of your home and freezes and thaws, this can cause ice dams, one of the most common causes of roof damage. Ice dams prevent water from draining and can result in leaks. 

Cold weather roofing materials 

Most roofs in Edmonton and Calgary are made up of asphalt shingles, but extreme weather can cause this material to dry and crack, shortening the lifespan of your roof.

As a locally owned company for 65 years, A. Clark Roofing & Siding LP offers materials designed to withstand long Albertan winters and protect your home. Here are a few of the Alberta-winter tested options:

Metal roofing

Metal roofs have become popular in colder climates and with proper care, a metal roof may last many years longer than a traditional asphalt roof. As the most durable option, metal roofs allow snow and ice to slide right off. However, it’s important to make sure that the roof is large enough that any snow that could build up around your home’s exterior falls to the ground and doesn’t prevent access to the home. Oftentimes, snow guards are an important accessory. And you can choose from a variety of looks, from smooth standing seam panels to accentuated stone coated steel panels.

Asphalt Shingles

While organic asphalt shingles have had trouble meeting their life expectations, especially in Edmonton and Calgary, newer technology has improved the asphalt shingle market here in the north. Fibreglass technology has improved. Shingle design has also improved. SBS shingles have been shown to last quite a while in tough weather while remaining cost-effective. There are still some products that are better than others and it’s important to choose wisely. Our roofing experts can help you make that choice!

Concrete roofing tiles

Concrete roofing tiles are extremely strong and capable of withstanding the most brutal weather conditions. They are even fireproof. But they aren’t as popular here as they were at one time. The tiles consist of a cured product made of cement, sand and pigments or can be synthetic. The weight is equivalent to three layers of asphalt shingles, so check the strength of your roofing system. If moisture does penetrate this product, however, ice can form and crack some tiles open. Be sure to pick the right type of tile and roofing company for your Alberta roof.

Slate roofing tiles

Slate tiles offer many of the same benefits as concrete tiles and are a popular choice for extreme durability and protection against harsh temperatures. A natural material, slate is watertight and their density provides added protection for your home. However, slate tiles are costlier and heavier than concrete tiles. 

New technologies save energy, cut costs and perform well in the cold

Research published in April 2015 from the University of Calgary’s Schulich School of Engineering, by Joule Bergerson and her research team found significant energy differences between three types of technologies in their life cycle assessment of white roofs, green roofs, and photovoltaic panels.

“We found that roof-mounted photovoltaics are by far the best-performing option in all impact categories,” said Bergerson, assistant professor in the Chemical and Petroleum Engineering Department and the Centre for Environmental Engineering Research and Education. Active, or photovoltaic, solar panels convert sunlight (photons) into electricity. These roofs work more efficiently in Northern climates because too much heat can degrade the system’s performance.

Proper roofing insulation & installation is a key factor

Other key performance indicators include insulating and sealing the attic floor so the warm air stays in your home and does not rise to the attic and the roof. The attic space should remain dry and cool and well ventilated. A simple roof design that’s tailored to a winter climate is the best way to avoid problems like ice accumulation and buildup of pine needles along the bends in the roof. A simple roof makes it easier to avoid the buildup of snow.

Whether it’s the repair or installation of a new roof in Edmonton or Calgary, at A. Clark Roofing & Siding we are fully licensed and insured, carry full WCB coverage for all our technicians, and offer a 5-year workmanship warranty on a variety of roofing systems designed for Alberta winters, from metal roofs to slate shingles. 

If you have any questions regarding roof repair or our services, call us today at 780-465-7571 or get a free contactless quote.

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