Homeowners need to check on roof twice a year
By Ven Griva
Copley News Service
Few of us give much thought to our roofs - until they begin to leak, that is.
Yet most of us have a lot riding on our roofs. If they should fail, much of what we hold dear would be exposed to rainwater and the elements.
So, for the comfort of ourselves, our families, and to protect our valuables and belongings, it makes sense to perform an inspection at least twice a year on our underappreciated roofs and their associated roofing systems.
Many experts recommend performing these inspections in the spring and fall. In the spring, you should look for damage caused by severe winter weather. In the autumn after the leaves have fallen, you should make sure they have been removed from your gutters and ensure that roof is in shape to protect you from severe winter weather.
Experts, such as television handyman Bob Vila, and Steve Thomas, who writes for This Old House Magazine, recommend getting out the ladder and climbing up for a closer look. If you are averse to ladders, or your roof is pitched at a severe angle making walking on it too difficult, the next best thing is to use a pair of binoculars, they say.
The objective of performing an annual roof inspection is threefold: to determine if the roof is performing according to its intended function, to identify signs of weakness, deterioration or hazard; to identify needed repairs.
A visual survey should include:
- Looking for holes, sagging, or other signs of deterioration of the roof's underlying foundation.
- An examination of shingles or other roofing material for cracks, tearing or peel-back. You should check for other signs of aging such as blistering, delaminating seams and granule loss.
- An investigation of sheet-metal flashings. These are usually found around vents, chimneys and rooftop air-conditioning systems.
- An examination of drains and gutters. Downspouts filled with leaves and other debris can cause water to back up into gutters and to seep under roofs.
- Pay special attention to any portion of the roof that faces south. Constant sun and heat have been identified as particularly damaging to most roofing materials.
- Performing housekeeping duties, such as cleaning roof drains, replacing misplaced drain covers, removing debris, sealing seam voids, caulking where needed, and filling pitch pans.
Another important time to inspect your roof is after exceptionally windy weather. High winds can peel back and break off shingles. The relentless force can cause the underlying structure to fatigue or bend.
If your inspection reveals damage or wear that requires repairs, schedule them as soon as possible to avoid unnecessary costs due to water intrusion.
When we do look at our roofs, the roofing material we see the most - the one that covers the roofs of a great majority of houses - is the standard three-tab asphalt shingle.
Asphalt shingles being produced today are usually guaranteed for 20 or 30 years, making them an excellent value.
Yet, in time, shingles must be replaced. It is a good idea to keep records of when your roof was last replaced, and of any repairs you have made. Also, keep warranties for roofing materials or workmanship.
The next upgrade from a standard three-tab is a thicker variation called an architectural shingle. These shingles are built up to be about twice as thick as the more common with the layers staggered to give them a heavier, more substantial look.
Another common roofing material is wood shake shingles. Prohibited by building codes in some areas of the country, especially the West, because of fire danger, their looks are hard to beat.
For all their great looks, however, they do require periodic maintenance, typically in the form of washing to remove any mildew or moss, and then re-oiling with a clear wood finishing product.
A properly installed and maintained wood roof should last at least 30 to 50 years. In some cases wood roofs outlast the galvanized nails used to fix the shakes in place. So, if you have a wooden roof, it is good to check the status of the nails when performing your semiannual inspection.
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