The average asphalt roof will last anywhere from 20 to 30 years. After that, they will begin to deteriorate — sometimes slowly and sometimes precipitously. Unfortunately, veteran Robert Bensen has firsthand experience with the latter.
Bensen served in the Chesterfield U.S. Air Force before returning home to find that his house could use a little work. His roof was particularly bothersome and leaked right into his bedroom for over a year… until a team of local volunteers and roofers teamed up to fix it. Over the years, the team has installed over 250 roofs for veterans and active military members.
Whether you have been in the military or not, there are ways to cut back on roofing costs and keep these expenses as low as possible. One of the best ways to do that is to stay on top of roof maintenance. Do that by following the roof preventative maintenance checklist below.
Keep an Eye Out for Leaks
A leaky rooftop can spell disaster. Spot roof leaks by identifying the source of the problem with a visual inspection of your roof. If there are significant gaps or missing flashing around ductwork, chimneys, skylights, or vents, chances are your roof will leak at some point — if it hasn’t already.
Vents may be failing if there are broken, cracked, or missing seams on a metal roof. On a shingle roof with plastic vents, you may see cracks or fissures in the plastic material. The flashing surrounding chimneys may rust over time. Similarly, you will find vent boots around plumbing or pipes that lead up to the roof on most houses.
These vent boots are no longer working properly when they are cracked, torn away from the roof, or showing signs of rot. The simplest way to address these problems is to replace the flashing, plastic vent cover, or vent boots in question. Replacing these fixtures is markedly less expensive than replacing your roof.
Another telltale sign that your roof has sprung a leak or will in the near future is curled shingles. Curled shingles may initially result from improper installation or wear and tear over the years. Whatever the case may be, once your shingles begin to curl up at the edges, they are no longer as effective as they once were.
Fix it by replacing the affected shingles altogether or by using asphalt roofing cement to firmly and securely press these shingles flat against your roof. Keep in mind that roofing cement is a temporary option, and it may need considerable upkeep if that is the way you choose to go. Bob Vila recommends repairing curled shingles with the asphalt roofing cement in warm weather when shingles are most flexible and pliable.
Head Inside for A True Assessment of Your Roof’s Condition
Do you need roof repair? A quality roof preventative maintenance checklist would be remiss without a discussion about detecting leaks from inside your home.
While you can definitely see signs of active leaks and prospective leaks from on top of your roof, it is important to venture indoors and look for any signs you may see there, too. If you are seeing signs indoors, chances are that your need for roof repair or maintenance may be that much more urgent as well. You may have a serious leak on your hands if you see:
- Water stains on the ceiling or interior walls.
- Visible cracks on the ceiling or walls.
- Deformed wood or misaligned window frames and door frames.
If you notice stained walls or ceilings, Bob Vila recommends pinpointing the source of the problem. Look above that spot for signs of damaged flashing, missing shingles, or gaps between flashing and vents or ductwork. Fix the root cause, and remove the stain using bleach and a fresh coat of paint.
Note: For severe stains and leaks, you may need to call in a professional. If leaks are severe enough that it is difficult to pinpoint the source or sources of the problem, call in a roofing contractor to help you assess and appropriately address the situation.
Get Your Roof Inspected
Of course, we’re all human. Even the most observant homeowners may miss obvious signs of roof damages. That is why scheduling biannual roof inspections should be an essential part of your roof preventative maintenance checklist.
What can you expect when you hire a roofing contractor to inspect your roof? Depending on your roof and the specifications of your home, an inspection will cost $250 to $600. Your roof inspector will examine your roof to determine the overall state and condition of your roof and make note of any visible damages, like the ones that cause leaks.
Regular inspections help detect problems in their earliest stages. By doing that, you increase your chances of making minor repairs and checking minor items off your roof preventative care checklist rather than paying thousands for major repairs or to replace your roof altogether.
Look for companies with certifications or accolades, like recognition from The American Society of Home Inspectors, to help you choose a quality roofing service.
Learn Why Roof Types Matter
When checking items off your roof preventative maintenance checklist, remember that the type of roof you own factors into your maintenance and upkeep considerably as well. If you have the ability to choose, weigh the pros and cons of each. If you do not, know what benefits and what limitations you are working with. Here is a basic comparison:
- Flat roofing is cheaper to install. The exact costs of installing a new roof will depend on the square footage of your home. In any case, installing a flat roof costs thousands less than installing a pitched roof. That means when it comes time for major repairs or replacements, expect these costs to be significantly lower for flat rooftops as well.
- Flat roofs are more difficult to maintain and do not support drainage as well as traditional pitched rooftops. A pitched roof naturally lends itself to more effective drainage for the simple reason that it slopes downward. As such, rainwater will flow down the roof as well. Flat roofs are best suited for areas with minimal rainfall, and flat roofs require a waterproof seal or coating to be effective.
- Pitched roofs are sophisticated and classy. Flat roofs exude a contemporary or modern feel. What aesthetic do you prefer for your home? If you prefer to keep things traditional and classy, a pitched roof may be best for you. Flat roofs look stylish and chic and complement a minimalist or modern appearance.
Now that you understand the differences between these roof types, adjust your roof preventative maintenance checklist accordingly. While it is imperative to replace or repair shingles from time to time on pitched roofs, conscientious upkeep of a flat roof may require reassessing or repairing its protective coating.
Is It Necessary To Wash Your Roof?
When it comes to your handy roof preventative maintenance checklist, you may have questions, like, ‘Is it necessary to wash my roof?’ Cleaning your roof can help extend the life of its shingles and prevent wear from bacteria growth as well as the buildup of harmful algae and moss.
Generally speaking, the National Roofing Contractors Association recommends hiring a professional residential roofer to come out and clean your roof rather than tackling the project on your own. If you do clean your roof on your own, take necessary precautions and remember to do it in ways that will help clean and preserve your roof — not damage it.
According to the Asphalt Roofing Manufacturers Association, it is best to use a diluted bleach solution consisting of equal parts bleach to equal parts water to effectively remove moss and algae from your roof. Professionals may use a safe, non-abrasive, and biodegradable cleaner that will initially adhere to your roof and wash away over time.
Hiring a professional will save you the trouble of getting up on a ladder with cleaning supplies and balancing as you attempt to clean the roof. If you opt for a do-it-yourself (DIY) clean, never use a pressure washer. The settings on a pressure washer are too powerful and will remove necessary materials, like shingle granules, from your roof.
Clean Your Gutters
While the gutters are not technically part of the roof, cleaning and maintaining them is an essential part of any roof preventative maintenance checklist. Why?
Gutters clogged with debris and dirt do not work effectively and do not do the job they are meant to do. In fact, clogged gutters may lead to improper drainage and, ultimately, to water pooling on top of and damaging your roof.
Clean out gutters by getting up on a ladder and physically removing debris and dirt with gloves. Once you have removed all the large debris by hand, flush your gutters using a special attachment for the hose. Do this at least twice per year or whenever gutters are backed up with dirt, twigs, and leaves.
Of course, if you do not have gutters at all, add gutter installation services to your roof preventative maintenance checklist as soon as possible!
Be Extra Careful in Cold Climates
Re-roofing services will be there for you when you need them. However, the average roof lasts 20 to 30 years, and most homeowners aim to get at least 20 to 30 years out of their roof. If you live in a cold climate with heavy snowfall during the winter, you need to take special considerations to ensure that your roof lasts. Help your roof last by adding winter maintenance to your roof preventative maintenance checklist.
Before winter, take stock of the insulation in your attic and throughout your home. The insulation should be consistent. Inconsistent insulation will only cause problems — and some with serious consequences. For example, a lack of appropriate insulation may lead to ice dams forming on top of your roof.
How does this happen? The snow on top of your roof should melt and drain away from it, just like rainwater. If you have inadequate insulation, patches of your roof will be considerably cooler than others, and that means the melted snow will refreeze and stick around as ice. When ice dams form, they significantly increase the likelihood of structural problems and leaks.
In addition to preventing ice dams, keep an eye out for signs that your roof is over-encumbered by snow. These signs include sagging ceilings and boards, cracks in the ceiling, walls, or masonry, and creaking and popping noises.
If you believe snow is building up on your roof and staying there, use a long roof rake to remove it. Most varieties come with long, long handles — over 20 feet long — that enable you to reach the roof without using a ladder. For severe cases of snow accumulation, call in professional roofers to address the problem.
Gauge Your Rooftop’s Energy Efficiency
Last but not least, consider your roof’s energy efficiency as you check items off your roof preventative maintenance checklist. Investing a little in an energy-efficient roof now can save you a great deal of money on monthly utility bills and household energy use over the long term.
Read more to modify your home for energy-efficient roofing:
- Add a new coating: Several different roof types can be made more energy-efficient with a special coating. Often that coating will be white or reflective. In addition to reflecting sunlight and reducing your household energy bills, these coatings help roofs last longer by staving off some moisture as well.
- Purchase and install new shingles: You can upgrade traditional asphalt roofs to cool roofs by purchasing special cool shingles. These shingles have special granules that reflect sunlight rather than absorbing it.
- Opt for a metal roof: Metal roofing is highly reflective and that means that it is, by nature, a cool roof or energy-efficient roof right off the bat. Once again, special coatings may help increase the reflectivity of your metal roof and ultimately improve its energy efficiency.
If you want to reliably ensure that your roof lasts, put together a roof preventative maintenance checklist using the items above and stick to it. Don’t discount the importance of inspecting the interior and exterior of your home for roof-related leaks, hiring a roof inspector, washing your roof, adequately preparing your roof for winter, and adding a special coating or making other modifications to render your rooftop more energy-efficient.