August may feel a little early to be thinking about prepping your roof for the fall and winter, but it’s much easier to inspect and fix your roof now when it’s sunny and warm than it is to do it when it’s cold and windy or raining or snowing.
Joan Crowe, director of technical services with the National Roofing Contractors Association, Rosemont, Ill., says that homeowners frequently ignore the roof and start paying attention only when there’s a problem like ice dams or interior water damage.
And when they do head up to the roof, they’re often armed with a shovel or pick to break up ice and remove snow. Big mistake, according to Crowe. Those tools can compound the problem because you could accidentally puncture the roof.
It’s better to keep problems at bay by doing routine inspections and maintenance and so you can spot small problems before they turn into costly repairs.
Here are some considerations:
1. Inspections. Inspect your roof at least twice per year in spring and fall. Also take a look after big storms – hail, snow, wind, and excessive rain – to be sure they didn’t cause damage.
2. Shingles and flashing. Look for shingle granules in your gutters. “They’re a protective surface and when the granules come off it’s indicative that a shingle is failing,” says Crowe. And if you have one failing shingle, chances are there are others too.
Look for shingles that aren’t flat and are buckling, curling or blistering. Though sometimes they can be fixed, damaged shingles are often a sign that your roof is coming to the end of its life.
Look at the flashing (the material used to seal and weatherproof a roof’s edges, joints, and so forth) around openings – pipes, skylights, and chimneys, for example – where water can get in.
3. Interior inspection. Look for water damage on celling and interior walls. Also if you can see any light through your roof – even an opening the size of a pinhole -- call a roofing pro. Small breaches can be the start of something much larger.
Keep in mind that nothing last forever. Crowe says you can expect to get about 15 to 20 years out of a roof.
4. Clean up. Remove debris like leaves, twigs, and branches from the roof. They can harbor moisture and prematurely degrade the roof.
Clean your gutters in spring and fall to prevent a host of problems, including rotted wood, leaks, foundation damage, and mosquito and insect infestation.
5. Hire professionals. Rather than taking a DIY approach to repair such an expensive system of your home, consider hiring a professional roofer. They have the skill and experience to diagnose problems and the tools and materials to fix a roof properly. Learn more about choosing and finding contractors here.
6. Safety. Another reason to leave it to a professional: “We don’t want homeowners climbing ladders, walking around on a roof, and getting injured,” comments Crowe. Keep in mind that in 2013, 175,790 people were injured on ladders severely enough to require a trip to the hospital, according to the National Safety Council’s Injury Facts. Before getting up on your roof, review some safety precautions.