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Maintenance Tips: Caring for Your Metal Roof

Improper roof maintenance is just as bad as neglecting to maintain your roof. That’s why homeowners should have a basic understanding of common roof maintenance techniques. 

General Roofing Maintenance 

  • Use a power washer and a trisodium phosphate solution to clean your metal roof – Don’t set the power washer to the highest setting. Otherwise, high-pressure water might degrade your roof’s coating. Remember: once the coating on your metal roof is degraded, there’s no way to restore it. The process for bonding metal to the coating requires specialized equipment only found in factories. As such, even professional contractors have no way to reapply clear coating to a metal roof. 

    To create a trisodium phosphate solution, mix one-part trisodium phosphate to eight or nine parts water. After cleaning your roof, make sure there isn’t any solution residue left behind as trisodium phosphate can degrade metal. 

    What about bleach and other cleaning solutions? It’s not uncommon to see mold and algae on metal roofs, which is why some homeowners use stronger cleaning solutions that can remove mold, such as bleach. In general, however, you should avoid using caustic or acidic cleaning solutions that can degrade metal. 

  • Remove twigs and other debris on your roof carefully – Twigs and branches can scratch your metal roof’s coating. Make sure to check your roof’s valleys or low-sloped areas as leaves and other organic debris usually get stuck in these areas. 

  • Clean your gutters – Don’t forget to clean your roof’s gutter system as well. Leaves and other debris can clog your gutters and cause rainwater to spill not only onto your roof, but other parts of your exterior as well. Yes, standard metal roofing systems are usually made from galvanized steel, which is resistant against corrosion. However, this doesn’t mean metal roofing systems are immune from corrosion. Overflowing rainwater, combined with natural wear and tear, can eventually degrade the zinc coating on galvanized steel and cause rust to form on your metal roof.  

  • Trim overhanging tree limbs – Given how problematic leaves and tree branches are for your metal roof and gutters, it’d be a good idea to trim overhanging tree limbs. Doing so not only reduces your roofing system and gutters’ maintenance needs, but it also helps prevent roof damage. Overgrown tree limbs can rub against your roof and scratch its protective coating, not to mention possibly dislodge some of your metal roof’s fasteners. 

  • Minimize foot traffic – Metal roofing panels are quite durable, but they’re not designed to handle foot traffic. If you need to check something on your roof, try to minimize movement as much as possible. And, if you need roofing work done, make sure to hire experienced contractors – more experienced roofers are less likely to make unnecessary movements than less-experienced ones. 

Corrosion 

Routine roof maintenance by a professional roofing company should be able to prevent most roofing issues. That said, homeowners should have a basic understanding of common roofing issues, the most prevalent of which is corrosion. In particular, there are four types of corrosion homeowners should keep an eye out for. These include: 

  • Underside corrosion – The usual culprit is behind this is defective coating on the underside of metal roof panels. If water is trapped between the metal roof panels and your roof’s insulation or underlayment, defective coatings might not be able to protect the underside from corrosion. Not to worry though, this kind of issue is usually seen in off-brand or substandard roofing panels. 

  • Saltwater corrosion – Salt can speed up the corrosion process. Saltwater corrodes metal 5 times faster than freshwater while salty coastal air corrodes metal 10 times faster than air with normal humidity. If you live near the coast, roofing systems made from corrosion-resistant aluminum and zinc would be a better choice. When looking for a roof replacement, you need to make sure your roofing system is well suited to your area’s climate. A professional contractor can help you pick the right roofing metal for your area’s climate. 

  • Edge creep – Edge creep refers to the rust forming near the cut edges of a steel roof. Contractors minimize edge creep by installing lap flashing and hemming or using a paint pen on exposed edges. 

  • Galvanic corrosion – Galvanic corrosion happens when two dissimilar metals doused in water come into contact with each other. The farther two metals are to each other on the electrochemical series chart, the more dissimilar they are. If two dissimilar metals come into contact with each other, the metal that’s higher up on the chart will be the one that will suffer a faster rate of corrosion. 

    What are the metals homeowners should avoid? If your metal roof needs roof repair, avoid installing roofing components made out of stainless steel. Contact with stainless steel can cause galvanized metal to corrode faster. 

Other Roofing Issues 

What are some of the other common metal roofing issues you need to keep an eye out for? 

 

  • Mold and algae – Mold can eat away at wooden components near your metal roof while algae stains are largely a cosmetic issue. When removing mold, mildew, and algae from your roof, avoid using harsh cleaning chemicals that can damage your metal roof’s coating. 

  • Chalking and fading – Chalking or any sign of fading on your metal roof is a sign your roof needs a fresh coat of paint. Chalking is the white residue that’s left behind when the paint resin starts to break down due to ultraviolet (UV) damage. UV rays can also cause paint to fade. 

  • Gaps between metal panels – Loose fasteners or installation errors are usually to blame for gaps between metal roofing panels. 

  • Leaks – Of course, leaks are the most common roofing issue. Extreme weather events, such as strong winds or heavy rain, are usually to blame for leaks. Other times, installation errors are the main culprit. Common installation errors include loose or off-center fasteners, failed seams (the side rib where two panels meet), failed flashing (a thin sheet of metal covering roof joints or areas where roofing panels meet other roofing components) and sealants that weren’t correctly applied (sealants keep water, dirt and other substances out of small spaces in your roof). To avoid costly installation errors, make sure to only hire contractors from an experienced residential and commercial roofing services company. 

Unfortunately, most homeowners don’t notice the warning signs of the aforementioned issues until the damage has already affected other parts of their homes. That’s why it’s important to follow a maintenance routine for your metal roof. 

How Often Should You Maintain Your Roof? 

As a rule of thumb, you should have a contractor conduct a comprehensive roof inspection two times every year, although more frequent inspections may be needed depending on the frequency of extreme weather events. As a rule of thumb, you should schedule a roof inspection after a storm. Roof repair contractors also recommend having a contractor inspect your roof before and after winter and summer. Temperature extremes can be harsh on your exterior, after all. 

Metal Roofing Components That Need Continual Maintenance

During inspections, contractors usually notice some form of damage in these components: 

  • Seams and edges – The sealants on seams and edges can’t last for more than 20 years. That’s why sealant needs to be replaced or touched up every few years.

  • Flashing – The thin pieces of metals preventing water from infiltrating your roof through the roof joints are easily dislodged. 

One more thing: make sure to vet a roofer before hiring them. Here’s a vetting tip: the number of years they’ve been working gives you a good idea of their qualifications. 

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