Your roof… Keeping you dry, keeping you safe. Every home has one, but not all roofs are created equal! How often do you really get on your roof? How long will it last? Will it leak soon? How much will it cost to replace? It’s probably the most expensive regular maintenance item in or on your house. Keeping it in good shape will save you $1,000’s over your years of home-ownership. Next time you’re up there, look for these common problems that we find more often than we like. A roof problem means leaks, stained ceilings, stinky insulation, possible mold growth, the health problems that go with it, and ruined possessions!
1. Weather boots. Weather boots are commonly made of lead, and they wrap around things like plumbing vents to keep water from entering the roof. A good boot is as important as shingles and underlayment, but for some reason, little animals such as squirrels LOVE to gnaw on them to wear down their teeth. That, and the constant weather changes, and BOOM! Suddenly… WATER.
2. Ridge Vents. Every roof needs air flow to keep the temperature in the attic (and under the shingles) from building up and shortening roof life. Unfortunately, vents at the peak of the roof are constantly sitting in the sun and weather elements which can lead to them becoming brittle, and the waterproofing that is used to seal the nails or screws holding down the vent is slowly breaking down…
3. Wear & Tear. Composite shingles are the most common form of roof covering in the US, although tile, tar and gravel, and metal roofing is not uncommon either. The average life of a composite shingle is about 25 years. Many companies offer shingles guaranteed for up to 40 years, however, they provide no benefit if your insurance company will not cover a roof over 25 years old. Check before you buy! After years of exposure to the weather, shingles begin to lose their coverings, become brittle and break, and develop holes – which could mean water in your house!
4. Wood Rot. Water plus wood can only equal one thing, even with new math – rot. Many times rot is hidden from view and is only discovered once your in your new home. A good home inspector will always look for signs of rot, and refer you to a roofing expert if there is any question!
5. Popping nails. As a roof ages wind, weather,and sun takes it’s toll, shingles constantly expanding and contracting can cause nails to pop up underneath leaving a space for water to enter your home!
6. Shingle Deterioration. Again, as a roof ages and the sun takes it’s toll, a shingle will curl at the edges. This breaks the seal to other shingles and becomes a place for water to seep in.
7. Missing or Improper Construction. Trim, often called a “drip edge”, “fascia”, and “soffit” is used to divert water away from the house. This simple piece of stamped metal is designed to keep water from “rolling” over the edge of the roof and running back in from the underside. A small piece of missing metal can mean big problems!
8. Uneven or “dipping” or roof sheathing, especially on flat or low slope roofing. This condition can allow water to puddle on the roof surface leading to premature failure of the roofing materials and – you guessed it, leaks! Flat or low slope roofing is usually a rolled material called “modified bitumen”. While it is a more water resistant material than standard shingles on a roof with little or no slope, these materials do not stand up to the elements as well, or last as long as other types of roof covering.
9. Plumbing vents. Plumbing vents should extend above your roof at least 6 inches. This prevents water and debris flowing off the roof in heavy rain from flowing into, and possibly clogging the vent pipe as well as creating a “chimney” effect with the pipe so that sewer gas (ewww!) doesn’t seep down into your house.
10. Wood fascia. While wood fascia trim adds a distinguished look to your home, it should be monitored to make sure that it doesn’t rot and that insects haven’t tried to make a meal of it. When buying a home, a qualified inspector will check these items, and more importantly, do their best to uncover issues that someone may be trying to hide from you!
11. Water leaks. Sometimes, even the best “looking” roof has an issue. Even with careful inspection there are times that an issue could be missed. That is why a competent inspector will also offer you warranties on inspected items that they may have missed! Ask for a 90 day warranty with your home inspection.
Bonus – Proper installation. The installation of a new roof is not something that anyone can do. It is far more that nailing shingles down to decking. Permits are required and should be expected. This assures that the roof was installed by a licensed and qualified company, but also that it was inspected to make sure that the roof installation meets certain building standards of quality and durability. It’s always important to know who is putting the roof over your head!
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