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Temperature Change: Your Roof’s Response… & Yours

Commercial roofs are typically made of various materials such as metal, single-ply membranes (TPO, PVC, EPDM), built-up roofing (BUR), or modified bitumen. When the temperature drops, several things can happen to these roofs, primarily due to the natural expansion and contraction of materials in response to temperature changes.

Here’s an explanation of what can occur and steps to prevent issues:

Expansion and Contraction:

  • As temperatures drop, roofing materials contract, causing them to shrink. This can result in the following issues:
    • Roof membrane stress: The roofing membrane may become stretched and stressed, potentially leading to cracks or tears.
    • Seam separation: In single-ply membrane roofing systems, seams where two sheets are joined can separate or create gaps.
    • Fastener issues: Metal roofs often use fasteners to attach panels; these can become loose or dislodged due to contraction.

Water Intrusion:

  • When the roofing materials contract, gaps and openings can form, allowing moisture to infiltrate the roof structure.
  • Water intrusion can lead to leaks, which can damage the interior of the building, compromise insulation, and create favorable conditions for mold growth.

Thermal Stress:

  • Repeated cycles of expansion and contraction due to temperature fluctuations can cause thermal stress on the roofing system.
  • Thermal stress can accelerate the aging of roofing materials, reducing their lifespan, and increasing maintenance costs.

Steps to Prevent Issues Caused by Temperature Drops:

Regular Inspections:

Conduct regular roof inspections to identify any signs of damage, such as cracks, tears, or loose fasteners. This should be done both before and after extreme temperature drops.

Roof Maintenance:

  • Implement a proactive roof maintenance plan. This includes cleaning debris, repairing minor damage promptly, and keeping gutters and drainage systems clear to prevent water accumulation.


  • Adequate insulation can help stabilize temperature differentials and reduce the degree of expansion and contraction. Proper insulation can also improve energy efficiency and reduce heating costs.

Roof Coatings:

  • Applying a reflective or elastomeric roof coating can help protect the roofing material from extreme temperature fluctuations and UV radiation, extending the roof’s lifespan.

Drainage Systems:

  • Ensure that the roof has an effective drainage system in place to prevent water accumulation, especially in low-lying areas or flat roofs.

Seasonal Adjustments:

  • Be prepared for temperature fluctuations by making seasonal adjustments in roof maintenance plans and inspections. More frequent checks may be necessary during periods of extreme temperature variation.

Preventing temperature-related issues with commercial roofs is essential to prolong their lifespan and maintain the integrity of the building they protect. Proactive maintenance and choosing the right materials can help mitigate the effects of expansion and contraction due to temperature drops.


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