There are few repairs that strike dread in the heart of a homeowner quite like a roof repair, or worse yet, a roof replacement. Most homeowners will go to great lengths to avoid that particular reality for as long as possible.
Unfortunately, this means that we often eschew a sensible roof maintenance plan in favor of a plan that generally calls for ignoring roof problems until catastrophe strikes. There is very little practical value to this plan, but it is by far the plan that most homeowners choose.
Knowing, as we do, that roofing is one area where an ounce of prevention truly is worth a pound of cure, we decided it was time to upgrade our roof maintenance plan to something a bit more practical.
Step #1: Baseline Inspection
Any new roof cleaning and maintenance routine should begin with a comprehensive inspection of your roof to establish and document a baseline normal state for your roof.
Use the initial inspection to develop a checklist that you can use going forward to ensure you do not overlook any critical components. Comparing your observations from one year to the next can also help you spot any subtle changes you might have missed.
Finally, by developing and using a checklist to document regular inspections you will have evidence to leverage in court if you are ever denied a claim.
Step #2: Inspect Interior Ceilings And Walls
Examine the ceilings and tops of walls for any signs of current or previous water damage. Evidence of water damage could be water staining, bubbling or peeling paint, mold, or mildew.
Step # 3: Check For Roof Cleanliness
Examine the entire surface of the roof looking for areas where dirt or debris may have accumulated.
Clear any debris that has piled up. Piled leaves can cause the roof to rot if not removed. Routine Roof Cleaning is vital to the long term health of your home’s roof.
Step #4: Check For Roof Damage
Examine the surface of the roof for evidence of damage. The signs that indicate possible damage will differ depending on the style of the roof and the type of roofing material that was used.
- Flat Roof: Look for a depression where water appears to be pooling
- Gravel Roof: Look for areas where gravel is missing
- Metal Roof: Look for areas of rust or corrosion, missing bolts, or lifted panels
- Shingles: Look for areas with missing or damaged shingles
Step #5: Structural Elements
Carefully examine all structural elements attached to the roof. Structural elements could include chimneys, skylights, vents, plumbing clean-out pipes, air conditioners, and solar panels. Check attachment points for any signs that bolts are stripped or loose.
Pay close attention to edges where the element meets the roof. This should be securely sealed with no gaps.
Step #6: Check Flashing
Metal flashing should be securely attached and sealed in a manner that completely covers all seams where ever any one item attaches to another. Loose flashing, or flashing that is not properly overlapped or sealed, is one of the most common sources of roof leaks.
Flashing should be installed around chimneys, skylights, vents, air conditioners, and plumbing clean-out pipes.
Flashing is also needed where awnings and room additions attach to one another.
Step #7: Trim Surrounding Trees
Check that surrounding tree branches are not capable of making contact with the roof’s surface in a strong wind or weighted with rain or snow.
Step # 8: Check Gutters and Down Spouts
Check that all gutters and down spouts are free from obstructions and water is able to flow freely without backing up onto the roof’s surface.
Use a garden hose to run water through every section of gutter and observe the water’s exit from the downspouts. Adjust gutters and downspouts as needed to direct water away from the roof’s surface and the home’s foundation.
If there is evidence that leaves are building up in gutters, consider installing gutter guards to protect the system from clogs that may cause water to back-up.
Step #9: Upgrade Attic Insulation
Be sure to check your attic’s insulation quality before winter sets in if you live in a cold environment. Attics that lack proper, or adequate insulation, allow the home’s heated air to escape out the top of the roof and can cause ice dams to form when the escaping heated air melts the snow on the roof’s surface. This leads to water damage and can cause shingles to shrink and curl.
Step #10: Examine Protective Membrane (if present)
If your roof features a protective surface membrane (commonly found on modern flat roof systems) be sure to examine every inch of surface for any gouges, tears, or punctures.
Step #11: Apply A Commercial Waterproof Sealant
There are several waterproof sealants available from construction supply and home improvement stores. When waterproof sealants are applied correctly they can can provide waterproof sealants when It is important to select the proper sealant for the style of roof and type of surface material your home has in place.
- EPDM: A synthetic rubber material that provides affordable, effective waterproofing
- Rubberized Asphalt: Tough & flexible and able to withstand extreme temperatures
- Thermoplastic: The strongest option, it provides 50 years of waterproof durability but it is very pricey and difficult to work with
- Bituminous Membrane: A combination of asphalt and coal-tar that is both effective and affordable but not sustainable as it is made from crude oil. It may degrade in extreme UV light
- PVC Membrane: Polyvinylchloride with a fiberglass or polyester mesh base that is easy to install and effective
A basic roof maintenance and care plan begins with a thorough inspection to assess the current health of your roof and inspections should be repeated after severe storms and or at least twice each year. By performing regular inspections, you are more likely to have discovered and corrected any minor vulnerabilities before the next storm which may reduce the severity of any storm damage.
While storm damage cannot be completely negated, the effects on your home’s infrastructure can be greatly reduced by having a regular maintenance system in place that allows for the quick identification and remediation of damage. A well-maintained roof will be more resilient and able to withstand the unexpected assault of severe weather and human error.