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How to Determine when You Need a New Roof or Shingle Repair:

Visually Inspect Shingles, Flashing, and Roof Structure

© 2009 by all rights reserved; content may not be copied, rewritten, or republished without author’s written permission

Architectural grade shingle upgrade adds curb appeal

Many homeowners fail to give their shingles the respect they deserve. How do you know when it’s time to seek out a licensed and bonded roof contractor? Here’s how: perform a visual inspection on a regular basis, preferably in the spring, in the fall, and especially after each storm.

Norm Abram of the popular This Old House observes, “You don’t have to climb onto the roof. Get a pair of binoculars and scan it from the ground or a short ladder.” But it is important to climb up there at least once a year for a closer look.

Many repairs can be carried out by the average Joe or Joan. But for anyone that doesn’t want to perform the actual labor, have a look at Angie’s List.. This makes much more sense than playing “yellow pages Russian roulette”.

There are a number of things to evaluate during an inspection depending on things like the type of shingles you have and the components that are installed. Following are some of the most common ones.

Flashing at the Roof Line, Vents, and Valleys

All of these components need to be maintained in top shape. Galvanized metal flashing should go underneath the shingles. This is intended to keep water out. Common areas to look at galvanized flashing are around the edge of the roof line, around anything that breaks the shingle surface or extends out of it (chimney, stink-pipes, other vents, skylights, etc.).

It’s in the valleys as well, under the shingles. Examine the flashing for dried, cracked roof cement and for metal corrosion. These are easy to spot potential problem areas.

Composition Shingle Roofs

The majority homes of homes today have the asphalt/fiberglass mat variety but you’ll find variations. Items to inspect for here are cupping, cracking, discoloration, and curling. Any shingles found missing after a storm need to be replaced immediately.

Metal, Cedar Shakes, and Slate

Does your house have a steel metal roof? If so, search for surface chipping and corrosion. A common clue that something is amiss is unusual discoloration. Fungus, moss, and algae can exacerbate corrosion.

The cedar shake shingles are notorious for cracking and bowing when they’re nearing the end of their lifespan. Replace as necessary, but it’s a better idea to just get rid of them.

Since they’re such a fire hazard they can affect homeowners insurance negatively. If you want to keep the look, go for that style in a metal roof. A slate roof? Any unusual flaking indicates a problem.

Roof Structural Components: Framing (trusses or rafters), and Sheathing

These are the structural components to examine. The usual sign of problems is a sagging or uneven condition. Your ridge line should be straight and not sag. If it’s swooping down between rafters, your sheathing may be at fault.

If it’s sagging on the ridge line, you might have foundation damage. Check inside the home under the sag for cracking drywall and doors that drag. Inspect your sheathing from inside the attic.

Inspect the Attic

Eyeballing the inside of your attic space is a wonderful analysis tool. What should you look for? Daylight shining through where it shouldn’t is a big no-no. That’s an obvious leak. Discoloration present on your sheathing and/or trusses might indicate where rain has invaded your attic. Be aware that it will sometimes blow a bit in the ridge vents during very windy storms. This is not a reason for concern.

Gutters and Downspouts

Examine these carefully. The gutter guards, if installed, should be clear and in good condition. Rainwater from the gutters and downspouts should be diverted away to prevent foundation repairs.

Has the Time Arrived to Re-roof?

The periodic inspection results will reveal the answer. An existing roof can be tuned up for a longer life span simply by being proactive with inspections and making small repairs. Replacing individual shingles now and then and painting on some roof cement will do it.

Many roofs fail to last as long as they can simply because homeowners keep an “out of sight, out of mind” mindset. This eventually leads to soliciting a premature roofing quote.

However, if it’s finally time to bite the bullet, take your time and do due diligence when selecting a roofing contractor. Search for a company that’s well established, will provide solid references, has a good name with the local Better Business Bureau, and finally, is licensed and bonded.

Follow Kelly Smith

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