Heat can pose a danger to roofing technicians when temperatures climb above 90 degrees. The heat index, which reflects both the temperature and the humidity, means that temperatures below 90 degrees can be dangerous, too. In North Carolina, temperatures can climb to that level well before the first day of summer hits.
Two roofing types in particular pose additional dangers that should be considered: metal roofs and black roofs. Black absorbs heat, as does metal. So, these materials absorb solar heat and then radiate it, causing the environment to feel warmer than it actually is. For the same reason, metal tools become uncomfortably hot, too.
A roofing contractor will evaluate the safety of working conditions if heat is a concern. A professional roofing contractor will not send workers up on the roof if the weather poses a danger to employee health.
Understanding the risks of heat, how do roofing contractors protect their employees? We can’t tell you what the other guys do, but we can tell you what we do to promote roofing safety in the extreme summer heat.
We provide our employees with the same information we’ve shared with you. New employees may not have a sense of what it’s like to work on the roof. They may not really understand the heat difference in working on a black asphalt roof under the full sun. Thus, we train all of our workers on safety, including weather-related issues.
We recommend employees wear sunscreen and appropriate clothing. Light-colored clothing blocks heat, helping people stay cooler. Heavy clothing, like jeans, is not recommended during hot summer weather.
Lastly, we encourage employees to take more frequent breaks when the weather is hot, stay hydrated, and eat appropriately.
That all said, you have to think that if the summer heat and sun pose challenges for our roofers, imagine the challenges it can pose to your roof itself. What can you do to ensure there is no damage caused by exposure to direct sunlight and heat. Here are three things to keep in mind:
Excessive Heat – Your roof absorbs a lot of heat from the sun during the summer. Depending on the roofing material, an unshaded roof can surpass temperatures of 170 degrees F on a hot summer’s day! While roofing materials are engineered to be able to handle the heat, these kinds of extreme temperatures can accelerate the damaging effects of solar radiation on your roof. If your roof isn’t well-ventilated, these kinds of temperatures will cause heat to build up in your attic. This puts extra stress on your air conditioning system and can also lead to condensation problems.
Thermal Shock Cycles – In North Carolina a roof can peak at some really high temperatures during the day and then start to cool off rapidly once the sun sets. This causes your roofing materials to expand and contract quite a bit, which will weaken the structural integrity of your roof over time. Eventually this can lead to warping and gaps forming in and between your roofing materials.
UV Radiation – UV rays don’t contain heat in themselves, but they’re more of a threat in the summer because the days are longer. UV rays reach your roof even on cloudy days, and this radiation can dry out the oils in your roofing material. This eventually causes wood to bleach, weaken and crack (especially untreated wood), and can result in asphalt shingle buckling and splitting.
The good news is that these threats from sunshine and heat won’t destroy your roof in a day; the effects are cumulative over time. Still, these factors combine to ultimately shorten your roof’s lifespan. Is there anything you can do to prolong the life of your roof? Yes, there is!
Your first course of action should be to take steps to make sure your roof is as well-ventilated as possible. If you have a shingle roof, for example, ridge vents can be installed on new or existing roofs. Ridge vents are raised, shingle-covered openings in the peak of your roof that allow excessive heat to escape. An attic fan with an adjustable thermostat for automatic ventilation may be something for you to consider as well.
If you’re putting on a new roof or are looking at what to do for your roof replacement, one of the most proactive things you can do is choose cooler-rated roofing materials to begin with. There are definitely materials that will be cooler for your roof and we can certainly discuss that with you. And keep in mind that a cool roof doesn’t have to be white, either. There are now many “cool color” products available that are designed to reflect away more of the sun’s radiation and absorb less heat. Some of the benefits of choosing a cool roof include lower summer energy bills, extended lifespan of both your roof and your air conditioner, and the ability to qualify for possible “green” rebates and tax breaks.