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How to Inspect Your Roof And What To Look For

This month, as temperatures begin to rise in the anticipation of spring and snows begin to melt up north, it's time to check how your roof fared the long winter. Here's how to inspect your roof and what to look for. 

Your roof system is an extremely important component of your home. It helps keep the rain, the cold, and the heat out and protects your home from the damage those elements can cause. It has many important jobs. It must be strong enough to withstand high winds; sloped to shed water; and, in areas of heavy snow, it must be able to bear extra weight. Because it is so important to your home, it should be inspected at least annually and repaired as necessary. It's great to do so in spring or fall when the weather makes your roof easier to evaluate. Here's how you can do it:

Safety First!

Remember when it comes to roofs, there are several safety points to keep in mind: 

  • If you are not comfortable on a roof, you can always use binoculars. 
  • If you decide to get a closer look, be very cautious and know your ladder when ascending or descending from roof surfaces.
  • No matter how comfortable you are, it is never recommended to walk on a roof greater than 6/12 (6 feet rise for each 12 feet of lateral travel; that's 45 degrees). 
  • Check the roof sheathing from the attic for deterioration BEFORE walking on the roof.
  • Don’t forget to check for overhead electrical lines when carrying your ladder to the access point and again when walking on the roof. 
  • And do not walk on tile, slate, or wet and/or mossy wood shingles/shake roofs.

So what should you look for once you're up there?  

​How many layer do you see? 

Look at the edge of the shingles at the fascia or gutter area. Do you see multiple layers? Two layers is the maximum desired. Do you know the age of this roof covering? Most asphalt shingles are designed to last about 20 years.

Is it dirty?

Debris in valleys and gutters should be removed as it blocks water runoff, which may backup under shingles and penetrate the home. Gutters and downspouts should be free flowing and unrestricted.

Do you see signs of damage from wind, hail, or mechanical impact?

Shingles may be torn, missing, worn from tree branches, have holes or punctures, or may be cupping and curling at the edges. Ice damming commonly occurs when melting snow refreezes at the roof's overhang and will cause shingles to deteriorate prematurely. If in doubt about any observed deficiencies, contact your insurance company and schedule an adjuster to conduct an inspection free of charge.

​Is the flashing damaged? 

Check for worn or damaged flashing around projections through the roof such as vent pipes or hoods, skylights, radon vents, and chimneys. You might also look for metal flashing in the valleys, inspecting for rust.

Do you see protruding nails (called nail pops)? 

Nails not flush with underlying shingles need to be reset or replaced.

How does the chimney look?

Look at the top of the chimney, called the splay or cap. Is it cracked or otherwise allowing water to penetrate the chimney interior?

Are there signs of ponding created where low sloped roofs have started to sag?

Do you see cracking, blistering, or alligatoring of the roofing material of low sloped roofs?

Are there signs of previous repairs?

Note the location and condition of those repairs.

Are any of the vents blocked? 

Take a moment to look at your roof venting. Make sure it is not blocked or clogged. Birds, squirrels, and raccoons commonly will nest in vents and roof overhangs.

​Is there moss, mold or brown spots on roofing material?

Also check for low hanging limbs or tree branches resting on the roof.

There you have it. You may find a problem using the methods above. As for repairs, it is always recommended to use a licensed, professional roofer. It is essential that repairs are performed correctly and thoroughly by a licensed professional; otherwise, the problem you found could continue to exist—or even get worse.