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Roof Inspection & Maintenance: A Basic Checklist

An annual inspection of your roof will help you to spot developing problems. Early detection allows you to address problems before they can cause serious damage. Although all roofs should be regularly inspected, an asphalt shingle roof has traits that make inspection especially important.

Asphalt shingle is the most commonly used roofing material in the United States. Because of its composition and the manner in which it's installed it is more prone to various types of damage. However, the same same traits that make it susceptible also make repairs fairly easy.

Inspecting your roof can be done from the ground, with a pair of binoculars. However, a closer inspection may reveal problems that can't be seen from the ground. Climbing onto a roof can be very dangerous. Do not climb onto a steep pitch roof and never climb onto a rooftop without the proper clothing and equipment. It is wise to work with a helper on the ground, to hold the ladder steady and provide other assitance. If you have concerns about your ability to safely conduct an inspection, leave the job to a professional.

Once on the roof, check for loose or broken shingles, nails that have popped up and any debris, such as tree branches. Nails can be hammered back into place and debris removed. Any broken shingles can be replaced and should be secured with nails and roofing adhesive. Loose shingles that are still in good shape can be treated in the same manner.

As you take a tour of your roof, be sure to check for any deterioration in the covering. Loose, colored granules working there way from the top of the recessed groove area of your shingles means the asphalt below is starting to become exposed. When asphalt roofs breakdown, first the colored grain falls away and next the protective asphalt. Observing this will give you a heads up regarding the continued viability of your roof and the need to replace it. Is replacement around the corner? Not exactly, it could take years before you’ll actually need to refurbish your roof. However, if the asphalt is being washed away, a new roof is probably closer than you’d like it to be.

Check the gutters. Buildup of organic material in your rain gutters or any blockage around the drainpipe can cause water to backup, causing moisture to work its way under shingles and mold to form. A yearly cleaning of your gutter system can save you thousands of dollars in repairs.

Next, carefully check all flashings. Flashings are your roof’s transitional components that connect your primary roofing material to other parts of your home, such as chimneys, skylights, vents and vertical rises in the roof’s plane. Often, loose, cracked, rusted or improperly installed flashings will be the primary reason for a leak in an otherwise sound roof. That leak can cause major damage before you’ve noticed it in your home. Many professionals prefer copper or tin flashings that can be soldered, thus providing a sound seal. Caulk or roofing cement in these areas can be undependable. Repair any flashings that have been compromised.

Finally, look for any lichen or moss growth on the roof. Plants will keep your roof moist and can work their way into small cracks in between the shingles, causing the roof sheathing under the shingles to rot. In time, that can mean major repairs. Washing the roof with water from a garden hose can remove any plant life (do not use a pressure washer, it will damage your shingles). After eliminating the moss and lichen, install copper strips near the top of the roof. When it rains small amounts of copper will wash onto your roof, poisoning the plants and inhibit growth.

Performing these simple steps, very carefully if you’re doing them yourself, can add years to the life of your roof and save you money. Remember to watch your step and use common sense.

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