DIY Guide to Roof Maintenance
The next time you step outside, take a good look at the roof over your home. Are there trees touching it? Do you see loose or damaged shingles? Are some of them covered with black streaks?
If so, your roof is well overdue for a maintenance checkup.
"Inspecting the roof for signs of damage is something homeowners should do every year, but in my experience not enough people do it," says Connecticut builder John Provenzano. "They think just because their roof is only a few years old, they don't have to worry about it, but they're wrong."
Most asphalt roof systems are designed to provide useful service for about 15 years. Slate, clay, tile and certain metal systems can last longer, but only if well maintained. Here's a Roof Inspection Checklist Provenzano recommends you follow each spring:
- Check to see if trees are growing too close to the roof.
Trees can cause a myriad of problems for roofs of all types. Branches leaning on the roof will scratch and gouge roofing materials when they are blown by the wind; falling branches from overhanging trees can damage or even puncture shingles and other roofing materials; and falling leaves can clog gutter systems causing water to backup into the attic or living spaces, or to run down behind the fascia.
If you have trees growing near your home, take steps immediately to trim them back away from the roof.
- Are there black or discoloring streaks on the roof?
If you have streaks on the roof, it's an indication that you have a problem with mold, algae or fungus. They readily grow during periods of high humidity, especially on north facing roofs and on roofs that stay in the shade for long periods of time. If left unchecked, over time they will eat away at the roofing material, causing deterioration and eventually leading to leaks.
Trimming back nearby trees to reduce shade and improve air circulation could help with the problem; but for permanent protection, it's a good idea to install zinc strips, along the ridge of the roof. "These strips form harmless zinc oxide when rainwater runs over them, and as the water rolls down the roof, it carries with it a protective coating that prevents growth from occurring," says Provenzano.
If you have a new roof, just the strips will suffice. If you're installing them on a roof with streaks, Provenzano says you'll need to first clean off the vegetation. "Some people think they can just use bleach for that purpose, but I advise against it. It can be corrosive. I recommend people to use some sort of a speacial cleaner for roofs."
- Inspect roof for signs of damage.
When shingles are missing or torn off, a roof structure and home or building interior are vulnerable to water damage and rot. Weakened shingles or tiles are easily blown off, torn or lifted by wind gusts. Since a deteriorated roof system only gets worse with time, once you discover a problem, you should take steps to repair the damage immediately.
If you have an asphalt shingle roof, fixing the damage is something you can do yourself. You'll need to loosen the first row of good shingles above the damaged one; then use a pry bar or putty knife to gently pull away the adjacent shingles so the good ones are separated from the damaged one. Gently rock the damaged shingle back and forth to remove it; then replace it with a new shingle.
Provenzano says replacing damaged tiles requires more precision and is a job best left to the professionals.
"The key to a roof system's effectiveness is complete protection," he says. "Don't leave your roof's integrity to chance. Make a point of doing an annual inspection. You'll be glad you did."