Every homeowner knows that owning a home means ongoing maintenance. Yard work, painting, changing A/C filters are just a few of the maintenance issues you need take care of regularly.
It’s often seen as a cost or a burden. But when done right, regular maintenance can save you thousands of dollars in unnecessary repairs — and make your home last for generations.
Yet, there’s one area of home maintenance that often gets overlooked…
Your roof works hard to protect your home from the elements. Sunlight, wind, storms, and even time take a toll on your roof.
Proper maintenance can help your roof do its job — and do it longer. Maintenance can prevent roof damage that could lead to leaks or other types of failure. Plus, by making your roof last longer, you get the most protection for your money.
But what can we really do for a roof? It doesn’t need painting. You don’t have to mow it. There are no filters to change.
Here are eight things you can do to take care of your roof.
1. Invest in a Pair of Binoculars
You might ask, “How can a pair of binoculars can help my roof?”
Well, climbing up on your roof is best left to professionals for several reasons. The most important one is safety, but you can also cause damage to your roof just by walking on it.
With a pair of binoculars you can inspect for damage from the safety of the ground. It might not be as good as having a professional inspect your roof, but it will help you spot potential problems.
What to look for?
Missing or damaged shingles – Wind can occasionally get under the shingles or tiles and lift them out of place or off the roof entirely. Check your roof regularly (especially after a storm) to make sure everything is lining up straight, and no shingles are missing.
Curled or buckled shingles – Shingles are designed to lie as flat as possible. When they’re curled or buckled, wind and rain can get underneath and cause further damage.
Bare spots – Bare spots or shiny areas on asphalt shingles are a sign of wear that could lead to bigger problems.
Each layer of a shingle has a purpose. Bare spots or shiny spots usually mean the granules that protect the shingles from UV rays have worn away.
Rust on Flashing – Metal flashing directs water away from critical areas like chimneys, corners, and valleys.
Flashing at the bottom edge of the roof is designed to create a drip edge. This prevents water from migrating back up under the roof or getting trapped against the eaves.
If the flashing begins to rust, it could lead to small holes that allow water to penetrate it.
Debris – Leaves, twigs, or any type of debris can harm your roof over time. Corners, valleys, and gutters are prime spots for debris to collect.
Moss – Leaves or debris can retain moisture. When they collect on your roof, that moisture can provide a perfect environment for moss or algae.
Moss holds on to even more moisture, which allows mold and bacteria to grow. The roots can even lift up the shingles and degrade your roof.
Peeling paint – When paint ages on your eaves and gables, the wood is exposed to the elements. Without a proper layer of paint, wood will absorb water and begin to rot.
Dried or cracked caulk – Caulk doesn’t last forever. Over time it can dry out, crack, and shrink, leaving gaps. Those gaps could lead to water damage and even become entry points for critters.
Nests or evidence of animals – Insect or animal nests need to be dealt with quickly. Nests can clog gutters and vent pipes. They can also retain moisture, potentially causing wood rot.
Bird nests, for example, might seem cute, but bird droppings are acidic and can damage shingles. They can also cause damage to more than just your roof.
According to OSHA (the Occupational Safety and Health Administration), “more than 60 diseases can be transferred from birds to human beings, sometimes with fatal results.”
Before removing bird nests, be careful! Some birds are protected under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act and moving their nests is illegal.
The best defense is to prevent animals and insects from nesting at all.
Vent covers, repellants and even plastic predators can help. But if the problem is persistent, you may need to call a pest or wildlife control professional.
2. Trim Your Trees
Tree limbs that extend over your roof can present several problems.
They can cause damage if they’re low enough to touch the roof. If they break, the damage can be catastrophic, depending on the size of the branch. And they can allow animals, like squirrels, raccoons, or possums to get on your roof and potentially gain access to your attic.
3. Remove Debris
Any debris that collects on your roof can cause damage. Leaves, twigs, or small limbs can damage the roof and block the normal flow of water off the roof.
Leaves can retain moisture for quite a while which could lead to mold or bacteria and even wood root.
4. Clean Your Gutters
Cleaning your gutters isn’t a chore you likely look forward to. And depending on the height of your roof, it may be a chore you shouldn’t attempt on your own. But it’s critical to maintaining your roof.
When gutters and downspouts get clogged, water can pool inside the gutters, get under the shingles, and even overflow onto the house. Water that isn’t directed away through the downspouts can lead to leaks, wood rot, and cause foundation issues.
5. Inspect Your Attic
Look for signs of damage from inside your attic.
- Do you see any light coming into your attic from seams around vent pipes etc.?
- Are they any holes that a squirrel or other animal might be using for access?
- Is there any sign of water damage?
- Does it smell musty or damp?
6. Make Sure Your Roof Can Breathe
Roofs need to breathe. Humidity in the attic can lead to condensation building up on the rafters. That moisture can damage the wood or the insulation and leak into your ceiling.
A good service roofer can tell you if you have enough ventilation, but be sure nothing is blocking the air flow through your attic.
7. Watch Out for Ice Dams
In colder regions where snow can accumulate on the roof, ice dams can form when your attic gets warmer than the air outside.
Snow on your roof begins to melt from the bottom up because of the warm air on the bottom side of your roof.
When that water runs down to the edges of the roof where the air is cold again, it refreezes and forms a dam.
The newly melted water gets blocked and is pushed back up the slope of your roof and underneath your shingles.
The best way to prevent ice dams is to have proper insulation in your attic. Not only will you benefit from a toastier home environment, you’ll save money by not letting heat escape into your attic.
8. Have Your Roof Professionally Inspected
There’s only so much you can see with a set of binoculars. So it’s a good idea (and a smart investment in your home) to get a good service roofer to regularly inspect your roof.
Some roofers offer maintenance plans that include inspecting your roof, cleaning out gutters, removing debris, and identifying any repairs that are needed before they become a problem.
An Ounce of Prevention
It’s said that, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.”
When it comes to your roof, that pound of cure could end up costing thousands of dollars. Spot problems early and prevent damage before it happens.
Don’t forget to include your roof in the maintenance schedule for your home — inspect your roof at least once or twice a year. You could save money and help your roof last for years to come.