Since your roof is above your sightline, it’s easy to ignore…that is, until it starts leaking. To avoid this situation, you’ll need to be diligent about maintaining your roof. Of course, like many homeowners, you may not know the first thing about roof maintenance. Not to worry—we’ve invited nine Diamond Certified Expert Contributors in the roofing industry to share their expertise on this topic. Read on to learn more!
The first step in maintaining your roof is to inspect it. Stanley Klaus of Crandall Roofing Inc. recommends having your roof professionally inspected every three to five years after it passes the 10-year mark of its lifespan. A professional will check key areas like flashings and gutters and reseal or repair any components that are in poor condition.
While it’s recommended that roof inspections be performed by professionals, some homeowners prefer to handle this task themselves. In this case, it’s crucial to address safety. According to Mike Ross of Ross Roofing & Construction, Inc., many homeowners mistakenly use the wrong type of ladder to access their roofs—specifically, an A-frame ladder. “This type of ladder is susceptible to tipping over when misused, which can lead to injury,” he explains. “The correct type of ladder for accessing your roof is an extension ladder. Rest the ladder against the gutters or rake edge of the roof and make sure it’s positioned at a safe angle. Most importantly, tie off the ladder at the top—this will keep it anchored to the house and prevent it from tipping over.”
Once you’re on your roof, you’ll need to know what you’re looking for. Joe Moore of Joe Moore Painting & Roofing provides the following roof inspection checklist:
- Cracked, torn, bald or missing shingles
- Loose material or wear around chimneys, vents, pipes and other roof penetrations
- Signs of moisture, rot, mold or algae. Algae growth often appears as dark or greenish stains.
- An excessive amount of shingle granules (they look like large grains of sand) in the gutters, which is a sign of advanced wear. You should also verify that your gutters are securely attached to the roof and clear of debris.
Mr. Moore also recommends looking for the following warning signs inside your home:
- Areas where the roof deck is sagging
- Signs of water damage or leaking
- Dark spots and trails
- Outside light showing through the roof
If you spot one or more of these issues on your roof or in your home, contact a roofing company to get a professional diagnosis.
Maintaining Your Roof
While roof inspections are important, an equally important task is performing annual roof maintenance. Joe Stefani of Shelton Roofing Co., Inc. recommends doing this in autumn before the winter rains begin. “Start by clearing leaves, tree branches and other debris off of your roof,” he instructs. “Pay special attention to valleys and other areas where debris can collect and cause leaks. Next, thoroughly clean out your gutters and downspouts. If neglected, your gutter system can become clogged with debris, which can result in damage to your roof, siding and windows.”
While cleaning gutters and downspouts is a crucial measure for any roof, Michael Wakerling of General Roofing Company says it’s particularly important for flat-roofed homes. “Due to a flat roof’s horizontal orientation, a clogged drain can lead to issues with standing water, such as leaks. Worse still, in extreme cases, the weight of standing water can result in a total collapse of the roof.”
Another important roof maintenance task is maintaining the seals around protrusions like plumbing ventilation pipes, commonly known as pipe jacks. “To seal against moisture intrusion, pipe jacks are fitted with rubber collars,” explains Mr. Moore. “However, as sun exposure causes these collars to deteriorate over time, cracks can form in the rubber. When it rains, these cracks can allow water to penetrate the seal and get inside the home. Pipe jack collars are inexpensive and easy to replace—it’s simply a matter of knowing when they need to be replaced.”
For a visual example of how to replace a pipe jack, watch Mr. Moore’s video below.
One aspect of roof maintenance doesn’t involve the roof at all. “If you have trees around your home, it’s important to be diligent about tree maintenance,” says Alex Oceguera, CEO of Cosmos Roofing. “Having your trees trimmed as needed will reduce the amount of debris buildup on your roof. Keep in mind that tree limbs should never be in contact with your roof, as this gives rodents and insects a direct pathway to your home.”
Tips for Tile Roof Maintenance
As a unique roofing style, it’s not surprising that tile roofs come with some unique maintenance needs. For example, Tom Rhoads of Roof-Life Construction says tiles can become dislodged and migrate out of place, especially those located on hips and valleys. Fortunately, he says these can be easily reinstalled by using an adhesive and/or being drilled and renailed.
Mr. Rhoads says tile roofs are also vulnerable to specific types of issues. “The intersections where two tiles come together are by far the biggest problem areas on a tile roofing system. A big part of the problem is sunlight, which erodes the sealant and membrane between the tiles. While annual resealing will keep these areas in good repair, for a more permanent solution, you should consider installing lead flashings.”
For more tips on maintaining a tile roof, watch Mr. Rhoads’ video below.
For those planning to perform their own roof maintenance, Mike Creeden of Marco Roofing offers a helpful tip. “Due to the fragile nature of roofing tiles, if you aren’t careful, you can easily damage your roof while walking on it,” he explains. “To avoid this, when you step on a roofing tile, you should step on the bottom part where it overlaps with another tile. Since this area of the tile has additional support from the underlying tile it overlaps, it’s less likely to break when you step on it.”
Dealing With Moss and Mildew Growth on Your Roof
Some homeowners experience moss, algae or lichen growth on their roofs. In addition to being a threat to your roof’s integrity, these types of growth can be an eyesore. Carlos Rodriguez of Mr. Roofing, Inc. explains how to remove them. “Make a cleaning solution of bleach and water and spray it on your roof. This will kill the moss, algae or lichen. Do not attempt to power wash your roof or employ abrasive brushing, as these will do more harm than good.”
Of course, as anyone who has dealt with fungal growth knows, even if you clean it thoroughly, it’s likely to return. For a more permanent solution, Mr. Rodriguez recommends installing a zinc strip at your roof’s ridgeline. “This metal strip will naturally leach out electrons that eliminate moss, algae and lichen,” he explains. “Ideally, you would have the zinc strip installed when you replace your roof system.”