How often do you stop and think about the roof of your house?
It’s one of those things that we take for granted because it is generally out of sight, out of mind. They are the first line of defense, protecting your home from weather damage by acting as the shield that sheds water and protects against snow, and ice. As such they are constantly subjected to potential wear and tear that can erode the service life of your roof. While most shingle roofs can last anywhere from 15 to 25 years, incremental damage can reduce the lifespan and necessitate an early roof replacement. However, a little regular attention can keep them at peak performance. That’s why it is important to keep an eye out for early warning signs with a thorough visual inspection at least once a year.
How to Inspect Your Roof
Most homeowners are not comfortable climbing a ladder and getting on the roof, and that’s OK. While a professional roofer will certainly take this approach, a homeowner can do a thorough inspection from the ground with a pair of binoculars. Whatever method you choose, always use caution. Ladders can come into contact with power lines causing serious injury or death, and falls can be just as dangerous.
Identifying Damage on a Shingle Roof
Once you are ready to inspect your roof, you will need to know what to look for. Damage can occur from wind, hail, water and falling objects like tree limbs so there are a variety of ways damage can present itself. The following list provides some of the clear signs that your roof may need attention.
- Look for leaks – One of the most telling signs of trouble with your roof is leaks inside the house. Consistent leaks after rain are obvious but you should also pay close attention after severe weather. The combination of high wind and rain can often stress a roof at its weakest points and reveal early signs that areas need attention. Look specifically in areas where dormers, chimneys or other obstructions create potential leaks.
- Look for granules in gutter and downspouts – Asphalt shingles have a top coating of granules that protects the softer surfaces from UV radiation. It is normal for some of these granules to end up in gutters and downspouts, so the mere sight of them does not cause alarm. However, if you notice a sudden increase in granules, it is a sign that shingles may be approaching the end of their service life. Without a consistent coating of granules, shingles are vulnerable to UV radiation which will make them brittle and susceptible to damage.
- Visible shingle damage – Inspect the shingles and look for cracked, cupped, or missing shingles.
Broken or Missing Shingles – Shingles that have become brittle will crack when subjected to heavy wind and eventually may break off completely. While overlapped shingle courses will prevent immediate leaks from missing shingles, it is a clear sign that there is an issue.
Cupped Shingles – Also look for cupped shingles. Cupping often occurs when an attic is not vented properly and overheats the underside of the shingle causing the edge to curl or cup.
- Flapping shingle – If you get the opportunity, look at your roof on a very windy day. If you see shingles lifting or flapping in the wind the sealant strip under the shingles may have been damaged. This can allow water into the system where it can do damage.
- Damage to Flashing – Flashing protects transition areas in your roof where shingles meet siding. Missing or damaged flashing will allow moisture under the shingles and begin to cause damage to the roof system and the structure itself.
A final area that often causes confusion when homeowners inspect their roofs are black stains on the roof. While this can look unsightly, it is not a sign of damage. The stains are caused by algae growing on the shingles. While it will not affect the ability of the roof system to protect your house, the aesthetic impact can make it difficult to sell. There are ways to deal with it on existing roofs, but if your roof is near the end of its service life, it may be wise to replace the roof with modern algae-resistant shingles.
If your roof passes these inspection points, then you are probably in pretty good shape, but if one or more of these trouble spots appear it may be time to call a professional. While an inspection by a homeowner can catch some obvious signs, a professional roof inspection will provide a clear picture of what’s happening and also provide information about roof repair and roof replacement options.