A sound roof is crucial to your home’s most essential function: shelter. Good maintenance of your roof protects you from exposure to the element, not to mention expensive repairs. Regular DIY inspections are key to detecting issues before they become major problems.
Know your roof
You should inspect your roof twice a year. Before you do, arm yourself with information. How old is your roof? When was the last time a new roof was installed? What type of material is it made of? What repairs have been made?
It’s important to know the life span of your roof plus how long its warranty lasts. Warranties are often prorated, meaning that as a roof ages, the percentage of coverage the warranty provides decreases until it runs out.
Some roofing materials, and the warranties that apply to them, last longer than others.
- Asphalt composition shingles can last between 25 and 40 years, with the typical warranty at 20 years.
- Clay tile roofs last 50 to 150 years, with warranties to 75 years.
- Fiber cement shingles last up to 45 years, with warranties of 25 years.
- Standing seam metal and tile roofs last 50 to 80 years, with warranties as long as 40 years.
- Slate roofs, depending on the type, last the longest: as long as 200 years, with warranties to 100 years.
Letting the sunshine in
Begin your inspection inside, not out. Armed with a flashlight, take a trip to your attic, where you can often detect trouble spots. Look for signs of water penetration such as water stains or even mold. If you see sunlight peeking through the edges of seams, it may mean the caulking around the seam has cracked and gapped. Sunlight peeking around the chimney, or a valley between gables, means metal flashing is displaced. Once you’re outside, take a second look at these specific areas.
Climbing a ladder and crawling onto the roof is fraught with danger if you are not experienced and skilled at navigating heights. Falls from roofs are a major source of serious injuries. Walking around the house with a pair of binoculars to look for deficiencies makes more sense. Climb a ladder only as high as you can do so with maximum safety.
Alternatively, If you have a drone with a remote camera, you can inspect the entire roof visually on a screen.
Outside roof inspection
Scrutinize these components during your inspection.
- Shingles: Look for shingles that have been blown off, or are lying at odd angles to the surrounding shingles. Also, check for shingles with edges buckled upward, a sign of high-wind damage. Climb a ladder or look through a second-floor window into gutters. An accumulation of asphalt shingle granules washed into gutters indicates the shingles are damaged.
- Gutters: Check for gutters that are clogged or sagging. If water can’t flow properly through gutters, it can leak inside your house and soak and rot the eaves. Investing in gutter covers will prevent leaves and other debris from clogging gutters and causing overflows.
- Flashing: This is the sheet metal around openings in the roof through which chimneys, vents and skylights extend. It also lines valleys between gables. Look for flashing that has been displaced by wind, lies at awkward angles, has buckled edges or is entirely gone.
Some of these areas may have tar or other high-strength caulking. Look for cracks or gaps that may have developed in these materials over time.
Evidence of water penetration
Also, look for further evidence that water is getting through the roof. Exterior signs of water penetration include water-stained and rotting eaves, sections of roof that are sagging, and/or mold or moss growing on the roof, especially in shady areas.
Tree branch damage
A tree limb hanging over your house provides energy-saving shade that keeps your home cool. But the limb poses potential problems should it snap in a storm and fall on the roof. Tree limbs can also scrape and rake your roof, damaging shingles. Limbs also give squirrels and raccoons easy access to your roof, from which they can chew their way inside the attic, creating another set of problems.
Hiring a roofer
Whether you need a new roof or just a few repairs, finding a good roofer requires some research.
Avoid roofers advertising on signs along roadways in areas where damaging storms have recently struck. Known as “storm chasers,” these roofers have a dubious reputation for fast-talking sales, taking large down payments, doing shoddy work or even skipping town having done no work.
Instead, seek personal recommendations for a reputable roofer, or read online reviews from the Better Business Bureau, Angie’s List or Home Advisor. Look for roofers who have been in business for many years, even decades. Long-term businesses are doing things right. Poorly run businesses usually don’t last long.
Get estimates from three roofers before choosing one. The most expensive one is not necessarily the best, and the least expensive may not be the best deal in the long run.