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Why Is My Roof Popping?

Homes creak. Their walls and roofs creak at night when it’s quiet, their floorboards creak during the day under the pressure of footsteps, machines vibrate and hum, and ice makers rattle and clank. And there are sounds during all of the moments in between from winds and storms or from the simple explanation of the foundation settling. Most of us are accustomed to this routine of sounds that play on within the walls of our homes.

There is a difference, however, between the normal symphony of sounds of a house operating and “settling” and a raucous noise that’s a call of concern. Roof popping is a common sound that forces a homeowner to take notice of this particular area. It’s a noise that doesn’t match the normal soundtrack of a house. Loud and unsettling, roof popping can be described as as a cracking or snapping noise.

a sloped black roof with asphalt shingles

Why Does Roof Popping Happen?

Simply put, roof popping occurs because of expansion and contraction. When the outside temperatures swing from hot to cold, roofing materials like the shingles, rafters, underlayment and even the roofing nails will expand and contract. This process results in a cracking or popping sound as the roof and its materials adjust to the temperature. The joists and beams that are a part of the roofing system are settling, creating a new sound that stands out among the normal house-settling noises you’ve grown used to.

Air conditioning and heating don’t typically reach the attic space—at least not effectively. The wood framing of the attic is most susceptible to temperature changes because of this fact (and more so if the attic doesn’t have good ventilation or insulation). Wood rafters are then left vulnerable to temperature swings. With the cool night air meeting this part of the house that has day-long sun exposure, the popping, wheezing, and cracking sounds from expansion and contraction are bound to occur.

Another common cause behind that popping noise is winter weather. Unsurprisingly, the buildup of snow and ice put pressure on your roofing system. This new weight is something the roof must adjust to and sounds off beneath this added pressure.

Ice dams are a big culprit behind odd noises and roofing damage. The snow melts thanks to a brief glimpse of a winter sun, but then quickly refreezes when temperatures drop again or due to nighttime and cloud coverage. Melted snow slides off of sloped roofs but not far enough to fall, thus creating a big icy, snowy mound on your poor roof. Groans and pops happen due to these ice dams but also other physical damage. Make sure to care for your roof if you live in an area that sees snowy and icy winters by preventing ice dams and ensuring your roof has regular inspections and routine maintenance.

Popping During Winds

It’s one thing if you hear the sounds of expansion and contraction, a normal process that occurs when cooler temperatures clash with warmer ones, but it’s another if these sounds are happening anytime the wind blows. This could be your roofing system telling you that there’s something amiss: a warped spot that sounds off as the wind hits it; a missing shingle that makes a popping sound as the wind glides over the damaged area; or another damaged site from fallen debris that’s audibly highlighted whenever the wind blows.

What to Do If Your Roof Pops

Thermal expansion and contraction is perfectly normal. However, this normal process is unavoidable and therefore the sounds that come of it are also unavoidable. You’ll probably hear that popping noise at night. That’s the lumber cooling and contracting after being exposed to a long day of sunshine and heat (and expanding because of it). The pieces of lumber that support your roofing system are rubbing together, creating quite a racquet at night. So, what to do about that strange popping noise?

Get a proper roof inspection by a professional roofing contractor and tell them about the noise. As long as the roofing system is safe and undamaged, you can then seek the opinion of the contractor on how to tackle the noise. Sometimes roof popping can occur because of damage, which will need to be addressed first and foremost—not just for the noise, but for the overall integrity of your home and roof.

The cacophony of sounds can be resolved in some houses by adding more diagonal bracing to the roof’s rafters or trusses. These additional supports work best if they’re 2-by-6 and secured with large timber screws, not construction nails. The extra supports beams help transfer wind load more efficiently to other parts of the roof.

Diagonal braces should also run in different directions under the rafters. Ultimately, the bracing creates a rigid box so that the roof behaves as one unit that can correctly handle stress loads as well as thermal expansion and contraction instead of each piece of lumber moving on its own. It’s best to get a professional’s opinion on the roof popping noise before you begin, however. Structural roofing contractors and engineers are trained to tackle these problems in the most efficient way possible.

Replacing your roof can be an expensive upgrade to your home. Let us help you in making that decision. At Feldco, we provide a breakthrough design and triple layer protection to keep your roof healthy for what mother nature decides to throw at it. For a roof replacement, our installers are factory trained, experienced, and professional to get the job done right. Speak to a product specialist and get a free quote today.

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