Inspecting Your Roof
People generally make a habit of taking a good look at their roof in the autumn, before a long winter sets in. Unless you are having trouble with visible leakage, checking the roof a bit more often than once a year is advisable. Roofing material, like anything else, is subject to wear and tear, and is your first line of defense from the elements. Because every region of the country has different weather patterns, it is a good idea to know what to look for, and what to expect when it comes to caring for your roof. A roof that is neglected can cost you way much more than what it normally would in terms of damaged roof boards, studs, and even interior ceilings and walls. Here, we will look at how to inspect your roof, a little about types of roofing materials, and how to assess the damage.
How Often To Inspect
Although the rule of thumb is to inspect either annually or bi-annually, it depends on other factors. Checking annually is okay if there have been no extreme weather events in your locale, but it goes without saying that this is generally not the case. High rise buildings are often inspected on a monthly basis because of the wind factor. Although a bit extreme for the average home owner, it is a good idea to check your roof after a bad wind storm or an unusually harsh winter storm if possible. High winds can damage shingles, causing damage to the interior infrastructure, and large ice buildups can often damage flashing and the roof membrane. Ice buildup in gutters can push up under the edge of the roof, leading to infrastructure damage.
What To Look For
Just going up on the roof and looking around isn't enough. You will need to look for specific things. Let's look at what needs to be done:
- Check flashings on the roof. Flashings are the metal
pieces in a roof that cover interruptions in the roof
plane, such as around dormers, chimneys, and vent
pipes. If it appears there is damage, fix these
problems right away, or call a roof contractor and
have them fix problems. Inadequate or faulty flashing
will allow snow meltage to enter the interior, causing
not only infrastructure rot, but possible damage to
- Asphalt roofing materials have a granular surface,
much like fine gravel. As the asphalt ages, it
becomes brittle, and these granules will come out
over time. If you see a lot of these granules in
gutters, chances are the roof is aging. Look for
bare spots in asphalt shingles, and inspect closely
for signs of tearing or warpage. If you notice
shingles curling up, it is time for replacement.
- If your roof has wooden shake or shingles, look
for signs of dry rot or warpage depending on the
climate of your locale. Know the difference between
wooden shakes and shingles - shakes are hand-split on
at least one face and either tapered or straight.
Shingles are sawn and tapered. If an inspection
reveals that approximately one third of the shingles
or shakes have any sign of the above damages, it is
time to replace the roof. Never walk on a wooden
shake or shingle roof when inspecting.
- A metal roof has a design life of 50 years if
maintained and properly painted. Metal roofing
comes in galvanized iron or steel, aluminum, copper,
and even lead in older homes. Each has its own wear
characteristics. Look for signs of pitting, rusting
and corrosion that can be the natural results of
aging. Look for loose or open seams and joints that
can lead to leaking.
- Slate, clay tile, and asbestos cement shingles
are high end, but will last the lifetime of the
home if cared for properly. They are subject to
ice damage in intemperate climates. Because they are
so brittle and easily broken, the best way to inspect
them is by using binoculars to get a close look at
their condition. Check for broken, chipped or missing
If you are not capable of climbing to high spaces, call a trusted roofing contractor to do the inspection for you. Many of them will do so free of charge, in hopes of getting your business. Many roofing contractors can be scheduled on a bi-yearly basis to come and inspect your roof. In any case, you can inspect a roof quite well using binoculars. Always inspect under eaves and overhangs to look for damage that might indicate water leakage, especially at points of the roof that don't conform to the regular roof plane, such as dormers or skylights. Taking the time to do a thorough inspection on a regular basis will save you a lot of money in the long run.
Alden Smith is an award winning author and regular contributor to DoItYourself.com. He writes on a variety of subjects, and excels in research.