Your home’s first line of defense against the elements is your roof and its ability to protect lessens as it ages. The manufacture’s estimated lifetime rating for roof shingles is determined under ideal circumstances, but actual conditions that your roof endures could be far from ideal.
There are many factors that can quickly affect the lifetime of your roof shingles including:
Slope of the roof
Proper maintenance of your roof can slow down deterioration, therefore it’s a good idea to have an annual to semi-annual roof inspection and see if there are any areas that need attention and maintenance.
In addition to doing annual inspections, it is important to check your roof as soon as possible after any storm. Any storm or wind alone can cause damage to your roof, so the sooner you do, the better you can avoid leak damage in to the home. If an insurance claim for damage is warranted, the better the data will be to provide support for your claim.
It is important to inspect your roof regularly so that you can address small problems quickly in order to avoid more costly roof failures down the road. When you perform an inspection of your roof, it is also important to know what you will need to look for. Some of these warning signs include but are not limited to:
- Roof leaks
- Flashing damage
- Ice dams
- Granule erosion
- Environmental damage
- Shingle damage
- Structural damage
Often times, roof leaks may be difficult to spot right away because more often than not, they begin with a slow, small drip. As a result of this, they may remain unseen for a long period of time and eventually begin to saturate rafters, insulation, ceiling and even the siding of your home.
You should occasionally inspect for roof leaks by looking for signs of rotted wood, such as where your gutters attach to your house or on the fascia board when cleaning your gutters. You also will want to look for mildew buildup, sings of puddles or water and wet insulation in the attic after a rainstorm.
You can easily do these inspections yourself or you can contact a local roofing contractor to have these inspections done for you.
Flashing is installed on your home in order to prevent the passage of water into a structure from a joint, or as part of a weather resistant barrier system.
Flashing failure is far more common than failure of the roof shingles caused by leaking. Roofs often leak at the flashing, such as the step flashing, because of a poor installation or depending too heavily on the caulk/sealants to provide the water shedding function. Flashing can become loose and sealant can break down over time.
When doing an inspection on an asphalt roof, you should check the flashing around the chimney, skylights, sloping roof (wall intersections), vent pipe penetrations and the valleys. If you find any gaps around the chimney or other penetrations, they should be sealed immediately with asphalt roof cement as a stop gap measure, and then the flashing should be replaced or repaired in order to avoid further problems down the road.
If you live in a cold, snowy region, you already know the damaging effects of ice dams. Ice dams form when melting snow on a roof runs off and refreezes at the edge of a roof. This occurs when the gutters clog up with ice, then snow melted by the warm roof creates water runoff between the snow and warm surface, getting trapped by the dam and eventually backs up the roof, travels under the shingles and leaks into the house.
Damage from ice dams may not be easily visible right away. As the ice melts and possibly leaks into the exterior wall, home or attic, insulation can become wet and lose its ability to perform. In some cases, if the right temperature and humidity exist, mold and mildew may begin to grow. Weeks or months after the ice dam has melted, paint will begin to peel or blister as moisture from the leak in the wall or ceiling cavities tries to leave and pushes outward.
Roof Shingle Granule Damage
Mineral granules are adhered to the roof shingle surface as part of the manufacturing process which are used to defend from sunlight, moisture and from the weather altogether. These granules are worn away by normal shingle wear, defective roofing product or climate conditions including hail damage, therefore deteriorate faster. Severe loss of asphalt mineral granules or a “bald” asphalt shingle roof is way past needing replacement and is almost certainly leaking.
You can inspect for missing granules by looking in your gutters and downspouts. Another way to check is to look for dark spots on your shingles where they would usually be. This is a sign that you should have your shingles repaired or replaced.
Rain, hail, wind and heat are not the only environmental factors that might damage the roof. Mold, algae and fungus can grow on roofs over time if exposed to the elements and not maintained properly, causing your roof to deteriorate and require extensive repairs. Trees, leaves and other debris deposited on the roof can become caught in the valleys or underneath a few lifted shingles. Any dirt or moisture caught underneath the foliage, or consistent moisture can create organic matter and cause the roof to deteriorate. Any of these situations can threaten the livelihood of both the roof and the gutters if not addressed in a timely manner.
Homeowners should check their roof for these kinds of environmental buildups and remove them as soon as possible.
Physical Shingle Damage
Asphalt Shingles are one of the most inexpensive roofing options and can be damaged by a variety of threats. Some threats that can damage asphalt shingles include:
- Over time shingles are worn thing and start curling which decreases their defense against wind, snow and rain.
- This occurs when shingles get too much moisture in them and begin to break down. Depending on how deeply the they’ve been penetrated by moisture, a contractor or home inspector will have to determine whether the shingles should be replaced.
- When shingles begin to split, this means they are decaying. This allows for water to reach the wood foundation underneath and start to rot potentially leading to a major roof repair.
- Hail can damage a roof shingle by deteriorating the granules on the shingles which could lead to water leaks and more expensive repair s over time.
- Branches that hang to closely to a shingled roof could scar and damage shingles if they are brushed repeatedly over time.
Shifting can cause load-bearing walls to move of their marks, whether from changing temperatures, age or natural disaster. Load-bearing walls carry the load or weight of the home. These walls are strategically placed between upper roof supports and lower footings. Exterior walls are load-bearing as well as some interior walls to help keep the building upright. One way to check for shifting is to look at the roof line from a distance. If the roof appears to droop at the ends or sway in the middle, it is possible that a load-bearing wall has shifted from its upper support, lower foundation or even both.
You can also have your home inspected by a contractor, architect or home inspector who is skilled in structural damage and can take a closer look.