If you’re like most homeowners, you don’t think about your roof very much. That is, until something goes wrong. But by the time you have a leak or your roof has sustained so much damage that it needs major repairs, it’s too late! With a little bit of care and attention, you can put off those major repairs and save yourself some serious cash. In this article, we’ll go over some easy steps you can take now to extend the life of your roof.
Maintenance Versus Repairs
Sometimes when we talk about extending the life of a roof, confusion arises between two important factors: maintenance and repair. The main difference between maintenance and repair is that maintenance occurs before anything goes wrong, whereas repair by definition takes place after. Another major difference is cost. Maintenance can cost between very little and nothing at all. But repairs, depending on the scope of the damage, can be quite costly. For that reason, let’s focus first on maintenance as a way to extend the life of your roof.
Keep Your Gutters Clean
If you want to keep your roof healthy, a good place to start is actually not on your roof at all, but at your gutters. One of the main jobs of your roof is to direct water off of itself and away from your house. When water is not draining properly, it can gather and pool, creating the perfect conditions for a leak. So to make sure your roof can do its job, you need to follow the water off of the roof and down to the gutters.
The first thing to do is to check your gutters for clogs. Any gutter will need to be cleaned from time to time. There are companies that claim to sell gutters that never clog or never need cleaning. While they may be good products, it’s still important to check your gutters at least once a season. Check to make sure there are no blockages that could prevent water from making its way through the gutters and out the downspout. This is one of those pieces of maintenance that will cost you nothing but an afternoon and some elbow grease. Once a season, get up on a ladder and clean out your gutters. If you have a multistory house or another situation that makes your gutters hard to reach, bring in professionals. It’s well worth the investment.
Check the Gutters For Leaks and Pooling
Besides cleaning your gutters, check the angle of the gutter to make sure water is draining smoothly toward the downspouts. To check for the right drainage angle as well as holes and other leaks (such as at seams), use a garden hose to fill the gutters with water. Filling them to a high level can simulate a heavy rain and identify holes higher up on the gutter wall. It can also find leaks that only occur under pressure. As the water drains, watch to see if any of it pools in the gutter and doesn’t flow all the way to the downspout.
Maintain Good Ventilation
Another area that has a significant impact on your roof (besides the roof itself) is your attic. Heat and moisture in an attic can lead to roof rot. In fact, many leaks can be traced to issues in the attic. The key to keeping an attic dry is maintaining good ventilation. Most homes are built with some amount of ventilation for the roof. But not all homes have adequate ventilation, especially older homes.
Some homes are built with fan or turbine vents. These are easy to identify because there will be a fan or turbine visible on the roof. If that’s the type of vent you have, you need to be extra diligent. Because these vents have moving parts (or even electrically powered parts), they are prone to breaking down. When you do your seasonal gutter check, inspect the fan or turbine vent for damage.
The most effective type of roof and attic ventilation is soffit and ridge venting. Vents in the soffit allow air to enter the attic, while vents along the ridge of the roof allow it to escape. This works on the simple principle that hot air rises. Since there are no moving parts, the only way they can fail is if the vents are blocked. Along with your seasonal getter check, inspect the vents in the soffit and on the ridge of your roof for any possible blockages.
Remember, any time you are working on your roof, you need to extra careful. Ideally, you should use a properly tied down harness. If you have any reservations about getting up on the roof, hire a professional. A professional roofer can also inspect your roof for damage while they are up there, possibly catching small issues before they grow.
Inspect Your Roof Regularly
It is a good idea to inspect your roof regularly. A good rule of thumb is to do a full inspection twice a year, in the spring and in the fall. The most important part of any roof inspection is safety. Never go up on a wet or slippery roof. Wear good shoes, and if you can, get a harness and use it according to the manufacturer’s instructions. If you have any reservations about getting up on your roof, hire a professional.
What to Look for in a Roof Inspection
When you’re on the roof, you want to check several areas. First, walk around the roof carefully and slowly, scanning the whole roof. Look for any cracked, loose, curled, or broken shingles. Often these can be fixed with just a little roofing cement. If a shingle is damaged, replacing a single shingle is relatively cheap and could even be a DIY job if you’re a little handy. Keep a good eye out for any signs of missing granulation on asphalt shingles. Over time, hail, branches, and blown debris can knock off granulation. Replacing a damaged shingle before it gets worth is a cheap and easy way to avoid further damage.
The next thing to check is the flashing. Your roof will have flashing in the valleys where slopes meet and around anything that protrudes from the roof, like a chimney or vent. Look for corrosion, holes, or other signs of damage.
Use a ladder or approach the edge of the roof very carefully to check the edge of the roof for damage. Inspect for blistering, cracks, or curled shingles. The edge of your roof is especially vulnerable to water and wind damage. Usually, a little roofing cement is all it takes to fix a problem before it grows.
If there is any sealant or caulking on your roof, such as around a vent or skylight, make sure it is in good condition. Look for cracks or brittle, crumbly sealant. Again, a little sealant or roofing cement can take care of most minor to moderate damage.
Inspect the Attic
Besides inspecting your roof from the outside, you should be inspecting it from the inside. To see the underside of your roof, you will need to get into your attic. Look for discoloration, rot, or other signs of water seepage. Catching water seepage in the attic before it spreads can minimize repair costs. The attic should be insulated with 18-inch thick insulation. If a piece of insulation is damaged, torn, or affected by water, remove that piece and replace it with new insulation. Don’t apply new insulation over old insulation.
When working in an attic, be aware of the temperature. If your attic is very hot or humid, you may not have adequate insulation. Also, beware of heat exhaustion. When working in tight spaces in your attic, it is easy to become overheated. Always tell someone when you are going to work in your attic and have them check on you if you don’t come out in a reasonable amount of time. Bring water, if you can, and avoid your attic on especially hot summer days.
When You Need a Roofing Contractor
If you notice that there are more than just one or two damaged shingles on your roof, it is a good idea to contact a roofing contractor for a full inspection. You also may want to contact a roofer if you have inadequate venting or problems with your flashing, as these repairs are often beyond the scope of a DIY homeowner. If your roof is very high up, has a steep pitch, or you just don’t feel comfortable getting on your roof, don’t hesitate to call a roofing contractor.
A roofing contractor can safely get on your roof and do a thorough inspection. If you’re ready for a professional roof inspection, or if you have damage that needs to be repaired, contact Eagle Watch Roofing to arrange for an inspection and free quote. Remember, maintenance is always better than repair, and repair is always preferable to waiting until you need a whole new roof!