Winter is not a great time for roofs. Freezing temperatures, strong winds, and rain, snow and ice combine to make winter the worse time of the year for extensive water damage. The cycle of water freezing and melting causes roofing to expand and contract, creating gaps that can leak. Older homes or those with poorly designed or constructed roofs are the most vulnerable, but it doesn't take a large mistake on an otherwise perfect roof to put the value of your home in jeopardy.

A buildup of snow and ice on the roof is never a good thing, and you want to prevent that as much as possible. Adding insulation to your attic is another way to prevent roof problems. In addition to keeping the cold out, the insulation keeps the heat inside from melting ice, which can run down from the peak and freeze again, causing ice dams. One telltale sign of ice dams are icicles, as seen in the image to the right.

If you have asphalt shingles, you're more likely to have issues with snow building up on the rough surface. Metal roofing with a PVC coating allow lets snow slide off. Snow guards and heating cables can also be used with metal roofs.

You don't have to go outside to check for leaks in the roof. The first sign is often water spots on the ceilings of upper floors or wet spots in attics.

You can look for damaged shingles from the ground by using binoculars. A closer look is often required, but moving about on the roof is generally something best left to an experienced inspector or roofer.

If you suspect you may have a problem, don't hesitate to get your roof inspected by a professional. A minor problem now can quickly become a major repair. The good news is that winter is not a roofer's busiest season, and you may find some steep discounts on repair costs. When looking for a roofer, make sure they have experience doing winter repairs.

Knowing the condition of your roof is especially important if you're planning on selling your home in the future. Problems and damage will have to be accounted for before most buyers will even consider making an offer on your home. The longer you wait, the more repairs will cost. So take a little time out of your weekend to check for roof problems. When it is time to sell, you'll be glad you did!

This blog is maintained by Michael of Kim Hughes & Company.