For many people, a new roof is probably the single largest expense that they will face while they own a house. With a little TLC, you can avoid having to replace your roof prematurely.
Of course, the number of years that you get out of a roof has a lot to do with the type of roof. The more expensive roofing systems, like tile, slate, or standing seam steel panels, are considered “lifetime” products, but that doesn’t mean that they are “maintenance free.” A poorly maintained tile roof can develop problems just as quickly as a less expensive shingle roof if left unattended.
The first step to keeping your roof in good shape is doing a regular visual inspection. In most cases, just looking up at the roof and taking note of any irregularities can be done anytime you are out in the yard. About once a year, when you’re cleaning the gutters, sweeping the chimney, or hanging christmas lights, it’s good to take a closer look.
If you are okay with going on the roof by yourself, that’s great, but if you don’t feel comfortable, don’t attempt it! A local handyman would be happy to clean your gutters and inspect your roof for you.
Roof Inspection Checklist
If you decide to inspect your roof yourself, this checklist provides a list of the most common warning signs of moderate roof damage. Take a look!
1. When cleaning the gutters, look for a lot of shingle grit. This can be an indication of shingle deterioration (more on that later).
2. Take a look at the flashing, is it loose? Are there any areas of loose or peeling caulk? Check around the soffits, chimney vents, and skylights.
3. Check the rubber boots around vent stacks for cracks and leaks.
4. Look at the shingles–are there any missing? Are they buckling?
5. If you have a steel roof, check to see if any rust spots have developed.
6. If you have a tile or slate roof, look for cracks or loose tiles.
7. Look for moss growing on the shady side of the house. Moss can look nice on a slate roof, but it can also cause a lot of problems. It can also indicate moisture issues on any type of roof.
Once you’ve assessed the situation, you can take the appropriate steps to deal with any small problems before they get bigger. In almost all cases, roof maintenance projects are relatively small and inexpensive, so don’t put them off! A little work now could save a major expense down the road.
Sealing Possible Leaks
It isn’t unusual to see caulking shrink or crack over time. Flashings need to be well sealed to keep water from getting under the shingles, so they should be checked from time to time.
Flashings around chimneys, vents, skylights, and pipes are among the most common areas for a roof to fail. Once water gets in around flashing, it’s not long before the roof sheathing can start to rot, insulation can get waterlogged and lose its R-value, and leaks can begin to form, staining ceilings and walls. Caulk is cheap! Use it!
Preventing Moss or Removing it
Make sure that tree branches are not hanging over your roof, keeping it shaded and damp. Moss spores like to take hold in cool, shady, and moist areas, and moss can spread across just about any type of roof, including one made from shingles, tiles, slate, and even painted steel. It may look like green, lush moss, or it might just look gray and crusty when it is dry. That doesn’t mean it’s dead–it’s just dormant.
The only type of roof moss will not attack is one made of galvanized steel. This is because galvanized steel is coated with zinc, and zinc is the mortal enemy of moss. You may notice that some older roofs have light streaks below TV antennas or vents. This is because every time it rains, a tiny bit of zinc washes off the galvanized steel and down the roof, killing the moss below it.
Unsurprisingly, commercial moss killer often contains zinc. A solution of household bleach and water can also be effective. It can be sprayed on and washed off gently.
Don’t power wash your roof!! This is especially important for roofs made with shingles–a power washer can blast the grit right off of your roof. Once the moss is dead and loosened, it may require a little light brushing to get the last of it off.
Even a really good quality roof can occasionally sustain damage from wind, hail, or any number of other natural occurrences. Missing shingles can easily be replaced if there are a few spare shingles stored away in the garage or basement. Loose shingles can be resealed with roofing cement.
Repairing damaged steel roofing, tile, or slate is quite a bit more difficult and requires some special tools and special skills. In most cases, those repairs are best left to a pro.
Sometimes shingles begin to deteriorate rapidly. Unfortunately, low quality or defective shingles are something to look out for. In the late 90s, one major manufacturer of good quality shingles had a major recall, but not before thousands of homeowners installed the defective product. Luckily, that doesn’t happen very often, but it happens. More often, shingles fail due to improper installation. Always use a reputable installer, and keep your warranty info for the life of your shingles!
Another common reason for shingles to fail too soon is having an improperly vented attic. If shingles get too hot underneath, they can begin to buckle. The space under the shingles needs to be able to cool off, and if there is not enough air flow, shingles can overheat and fail. If you have too few vents, or if the soffit vents have been accidentally covered with insulation, that extra heat can take a lot of years off of the life of a roof, not to mention voiding your warranty.
In most cases, a well-installed roof will be trouble free for many, many years. It doesn’t take much, though, to spot and address minor maintenance issues in order to keep your roof in good shape for a few extra years!