Roofing in the Heart of Dixie
Updated: Aug 17
(guest post by Jeremy Merchant)
Alabama is known for its varying weather conditions, meaning you should expect the unexpected. This makes the importance of having the proper house structure, including the roof, critical.
In the summers, temperatures can be scorching, and the weather outside humid, while winters are typically mild in temperature, but full of rainfall. And don't be surprised if, during the warmer months, there are thunderstorms, hurricanes, or even tornadoes. To combat these harsh conditions, one must make sure their roof is equipped for the job.
Understanding Alabama’s Weather
Though the climate varies in Alabama, the state is typically known for its humid and muggy summer and mild winters with heavy rainfall. This weather is caused by the state's geographical location, which causes more meteorological events than other states in the US. Here are some of the common weather patterns in Alabama. In winter, temperatures can drop below freezing, but snowfall is rare.
Common Extreme Weather Events
Alabama is located along the Gulf Coast, making it more prone to hurricane impacts. Even though hurricanes weaken the further they move away from the shore, they still can cause major damage with high wind speeds, heavy rainfall, and storm surges. This can cause damage to homes, and buildings, and affect coastal erosion.
Alabama is located in Dixie Alley, an area in the southeastern United States known for its higher frequency of tornadoes. In spring, tornadoes present an even higher risk to those living in the area.
Due to the state's geographical location to the Gulf of Mexico, it is overall at more risk of extreme weather conditions. This makes it essential to consider all roofing options when building structures such as homes or business buildings.
Weather Challenges for Alabama Roofs
One of the biggest challenges that roofs face in Alabama is the heat. The constant sun exposure and high temperatures dictate how long roofs will last. One major problem is the degradation of the roofing materials over time. These materials can become brittle and make them more susceptible to leaks and cracks. Depending on the material, roofs can deteriorate from constant sun exposure and heat.
Besides the temperatures, the higher risk of hurricanes and tornadoes can cause problems with certain types of roofing. Most commonly, high winds can both blow off the roofing material itself or blow other objects into it, causing damage. Additionally, heavy rain with these high winds can cause water damage to your roof or, even worse, to the inside of your property.
Though snow is not common, it is possible in Alabama. Most roofs in warmer states are not engineered for heavy snowfall or extreme cold temperatures. This means if snow were to accumulate, the weight could cause roofs to cave in, tearing down the surrounding construction with it.
To help prevent any roof damage, regular inspection and maintenance are important. After big storms, always check to make sure your roof is free from damage, even if you don't see anything immediately noticeable.
Most Common Roofing Materials in Alabama
While some roofing options may seem to be better choices for the Alabama climate, they all come with their pros and cons.
● Affordable and available
● Easy to install and repair
● Available in a variety of color options and styles
● Requires regular maintenance
● Can be damaged by heat and extreme UV exposure
● Shorter lifespan compared to other roofing materials
● Not ideal for humid climates
Though asphalt shingles perform great against rain and hail, heat and UV exposure can cause extreme damage. Strong winds from tornadoes or hurricanes can also damage the shingles and cause them to detach. With regular maintenance and inspections asphalt shingles, still serve as a base-level roofing material in Alabama.
● Extremely durable, leading to a longer lifespan
● Fire resistant, as well as resistant to insect damage and rot
● Energy efficient
● Lightweight and can be installed over other roofing materials
● More expensive
● Can be dented in hail storms
● Professionals are required to install
● Noisy during heavy rain
Metal roofs are a leading roof choice in Alabama, especially in the upstate areas. Local Huntsville roofing contractor, Advanced Roofing, speaks highly of metal roofing and often recommends it to homeowners in the Huntsville area.
While it can be a pricier option, metal roofing is extremely resilient, withstands extreme weather, and can even help save energy during the hotter months of the year.
Tile and Slate Roofs
● Elegant appearance
● Very durable
● Environmentally friendly
● Minimal maintenance
● More expensive upfront
● Heavy and might need additional support
Stone materials have a natural ability to withstand heavy rain, snow, and ice without deteriorating or losing their structural integrity. The dense nature of tile and slate provides excellent protection against hail, offering reliable defense against potential impacts.
Flat and Low Slope Roofing
● Modern appearance
● Ideal for certain architectural designs
● Prone to leaks
● Minimal water drainage
● Not suitable for heavy rainfall
● Requires special weatherproofing
Flat and low-slope roofing systems face unique challenges when it comes to weather resistance. Proper installation and material selection are critical to ensure their ability to withstand rain and snow. Ponding water can be an issue on flat roofs, increasing the risk of leaks and potential structural damage.
Preventive Measures and Maintenance Tips for Alabama Roofs
No matter which type of roofing material you use, it is essential to perform routine maintenance and inspection checks to extend longevity. After major storms, inspect the roof even if you don’t expect any damage. If you do suspect damage, it's a good idea to have a professional come out to fix any problems.
For high winds and hurricanes, take extra precautions to ensure your roof is properly stabilized:
Security—Fastening the raised edges or corners of shingles, tiles, flashing can help prevent them from blowing away.
Strap It Down—For extra measures or emergency situations, you can even use straps to hold down roofing materials until they can be repaired by a professional.
The Right Materials—Using impact-resistant roofing materials like metal or concrete tiles can ensure your roof stays protected.
Note that heat damage can also cause ventilation issues. While Alabama doesn't have much snow or cold weather, heat damage can lead to heat loss in the colder months. This means once it does snow, ice damage can occur if heat has already impacted the roof. Additionally, it can cause heat from inside the home to escape more easily, increasing your energy bill.
Lastly, it is essential to make sure your roof has the proper drainage system in place to protect it from leaks. This means having well-maintained gutter systems that help redirect water off the roof to prevent pooling. Regular maintenance of gutter systems is essential to extend the longevity of your roof.
Choosing the Right Roofing Contractor in Alabama
If you are looking for a new roof or tips on how to take care of your current roof, start by asking a reputable local professional. They will have the best recommendations on both how to accommodate your wants and needs, while also considering the local weather challenges.
The local part here is very important, as is essential that you employ the services of a professional who understands the immediate area. An upstate roofer would be more experienced in roof damage caused by tornadoes, because upstate Alabama sees more tornado activity than the coast, whereas the coast is likely to see worse hurricane effects than the rest of the state.
Alabama's diverse weather, from scorching summers to hurricanes and heavy rains, presents many challenges for roofing. Proper material selection, preventive measures like insulation and ventilation, and choosing experienced contractors are crucial in ensuring resilient roofs and the longevity of your roof.