Inspecting your roof to stop problems in their tracks

Even if you recently fixed or replaced your roof, it always helps to look up and give it a periodic inspection. Doing so might identify a problem which can be easily fixed before it develops into a serious problem.

Inspecting the roof once or twice a year is sufficient. Beacon Roof & Exterior Cleaning, a company based in Rockledge, Fla., recommends giving the roof a look in the spring and autumn. Glenda Taylor, writing for the home improvement professional Bob Vila, says inspections conducted in the fall may let you complete repairs before freezing temperatures set in. They might also let you know what work should be scheduled for the spring.

It's also helpful to inspect the roof after a major thunderstorm or other severe weather event. This will quickly let you see if your shingles or other roof components suffered damage from hail, a falling tree branch, or other hazards.

You don't necessarily have to get up onto the roof to conduct an inspection. The home improvement site HouseLogic says you can often get a good look at the roof from the ground by using a pair of binoculars. Taking a walk around the home to check out different parts of the roof is also a good way to start an inspection.

However, you'll be able to do a more thorough inspection if you climb a ladder to the eaves or get onto the roof. Make sure you take the proper safety steps, such as stabilizing the ladder, wearing sturdy work boots, and possibly wearing a safety harness.

Look for any obvious signs of damage. These might include shingles that are missing, broken, or curling. Woodard Cleaning and Restoration, a company based in St. Louis, says you should also look for parts of the roof that are sagging or showing signs of age. Cynthia Wilson, writing for Angie's List, says that if you go onto the roof you can feel for soft spots, which are usually caused by rotting wood beneath the shingles.

Check to see if moss or lichen is growing anywhere on the roof. HouseLogic says this is a sign that the roofing material is starting to decay. However, black lichen is more of a cosmetic issue and can simply be removed.

Look inside your gutters to see if there is a buildup of sandy material. Beacon Roof and Exterior Cleaning says asphalt shingles will shed these granules, which help protect the roof from ultraviolet radiation damage, when they are reaching the end of their lifespan.

In addition to the shingles, you should check the condition of any flashing or caulking around roof openings such as chimneys and vents. Make a note of any cracks, rust, or other issues warning that the material is compromised. There should also not be any gaps that will allow rainwater to seep in.

While you're inspecting the roof, take the opportunity to look for other issues as well. The gutters should be properly aligned and free of debris. Wilson says you can look for any rotting wood, holes created by animals, or other damage in the soffit and fascia. HouseLogic says you can also check the chimney to make sure the chimney cap is in good condition.

Don't forget to do an interior inspection as well. Peeling paint near roof overhangs, dark areas on the ceiling, and water stains or damp spots are all signs that the roof has sprung a leak. Beacon Roof and Exterior Cleaning says you can also check out the underside of the roof from the attic.

If you want a more thorough inspection, you can hire a professional to do the job. Taylor says this is particularly helpful if your roof is more than 10 years old, if you have found signs of a roof leak inside the home, or if you think your home may have been damaged by a weather event.

Once you have completed the inspection, decide whether you want to complete any necessary repairs on your own or hire a professional. HouseLogic says that as long as you don't mind heights, you may be able to complete simple projects such as replacing damaged shingles or hammering popped nails back into place. Hiring a professional may be the best route to take if extensive repairs are needed or if you are uncomfortable being on the roof.

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