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I am building a new detached garage, and the forecast this weekend is just warm enough that I plan to get my trusses and roof sheathing up.

My sheathing is 5/8" plywood (not OSB). It's a single car garage, 12' by 20'.

However, the weather won't be above 40F / 4C until the spring, so I won't be able to shingle for some time.

How should I protect the bare roof sheathing to best survive the winter?

I am in Wisconsin, USA, so expecting lots of wind, snow, and frigid cold.

These are the options I am thinking of - are there better alternatives?

  • Install tar paper underlayment and ice dam only
  • Install underlayment / ice dam and spread a tarp or plastic over the whole thing
  • Tarp over the bare sheathing
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    You certainly can shingle in freezing temperatures. Life goes on here in Minnesota (your hip neighbor), where we build year-round. The only concern is that you have a severe wind storm before the adhesive sets on a warm day (say over 50mph). I wouldn't let that stop me. Keep shingles indoors until you use them for best flexibility. – isherwood Dec 16 '19 at 18:00
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If anything just a tarp over the sheathing. The snow and wind will ruin the tarpaper. I have had A outbuilding sit through the winter after getting started and having to have knee replacement surgery, in fact it sat for well over 6 months with nothing covering it and was fine once roofed, I did allow a week of warm dry weather prior to roofing to allow the wood to dry out that was 2 years ago and it is fine. I would have preferred to have a tarp but the way things happened there was no chance to get back up there but is fine today.

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I would think your biggest problem will be the wind and moisture. How big is the garage? Plywood will do pretty good if you keep the majority of it dry. The ice and water should do okay if you can get it to stick. Normally heat does the trick. In my opinion I would try to get drip edge on then the ice and water shield with staples in the top part that gets overlapped and then a heavier felt than normal or double felt with ample cap staples so the wind won't rip it off.

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With the snow and wind in Wisconsin (for one month last year, Eau Claire not only had a record amount of snow, but the new record was twice what the old record was) I would do as both Ed and Nic suggest. In other words, I would do the ice and guard, and the heavy felt along with a well secured tarp. If time is a problem, do the tarp at the very least. I would not leave it bare.

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The plywood might not hold up too bad if you do nothing. I am not sure whether it's wise to paint the plywood, but they do make paint that you can apply in cold weather (35*F).

I wouldn't rule out installing shingles in cold weather. It's done quite a bit around here. I would check with the shingle manufacturer and get one that allows for cold weather installation. Just an example, here's one.

A 12 x 20 garage is a nice manageable size job. I think the brittleness of the shingles is the big thing. Maybe if you stored them indoors in climate controlled environment for a few days so they get nice and warm. Then put a torpedo heater in the garage and keep them in there, this will also keep the roof a little warmer. Then bring up the bundles maybe a couple at a time, a bit of trouble but hopefully you can get them in before they get cold and brittle. Likewise keep the adhesive warm. Use a nail gun and set it so you're using the lowest pressure that will sink the nails.

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