Every homeowner feels a sense of pride when they finally buy their first home. But owning a home in part means taking on a challenge of sorts: you need to keep it well maintained to avoid any additional large unscheduled capital expenditures.
One of the biggest expenses for homeowners is typically the roof. A well-maintained roof can last homeowners anywhere from 10 to 100 years or more depending on the material and the quality of the installation. For our purposes here, we talk about asphalt shingle roofing, the type of roofing that over 70% of U.S. homeowners have installed on their homes.
The key to a roof’s longevity is making sure that you develop and keep to a scheduled maintenance program. Doing so can extend the life of your roofing system.
Keeping a Regular Maintenance Schedule
We’ve put together a list of tasks you should do on regularly basis to help you identify and prevent the kind of damage that spells doom for your average roof.
Regularly check your shingles, especially after a heavy storm or high winds. Inspect your roof for missing, curling or cracked singles, peeling flashing or missing shingles. Get this damage looked at by a professional roofing contractor, and have the necessary repairs made.
Get your roof professionally inspected to spot potential problems you might’ve missed, and ask the pro for tips for maintaining your roof. The pros can tell you how many more years your roofing will last. An inspection once a year or every two years will help you find potential issues before they become costly repairs.
Fix leaks in your attic and ceiling. Other common warning signs of a leak are musty odors in certain rooms, spots on your exterior walls and bulging patches on your interior walls. Locate the leak, and have the hole patched up.
Wash Your Roof. At some point, your roof will start to look dirty, especially if algae is growing on your house. Algae won’t cause any immediate damage, but can slowly rot your shingles. Spray your roof with a 50% mix of water and bleach to kill the algae. Installing copper strips just beneath your roof’s peak will also help kill off any algae that’s fixing for a comeback.
Clean your gutters. Though it’s a dirty job, cleaning out your gutters is an essential part of maintaining your roof. Clogged gutters make it easy for water to seep under the structure of your roof, creating more than just a few water stains.
Trim tree branches to prevent them from falling on your roof during severe weather. Cut off any large branches that are directly over your roof to help reduce storm damage. However, even when you closely adhere to a maintenance program, you will eventually need to repair, recover or replace your roof system, especially toward the end of your roof’s expected service life.
Repairing Your Roof Issues
Specific roofing elements may occasionally need to be repaired because of damage to the roof structure from impact or poor installation, among other things. If done right, the repairs should fully restore the expected service life of the system.
Any roof repair must include checking for moisture below the exterior shingles. Subsurface moisture that is present below the existing structure will require that all the wet areas of the roof system be replaced to prevent further problems like mold growth. Once you find the source of the moisture and replace the affected components, you will essentially have prevented structural damage to the roof deck.
While maintenance plays a large part in keeping our roofs in prime shape, it also becomes necessary to occasionally have to repair an existing roof membrane or to replace parts of a roofing system due to deterioration. Long-term exposure to the elements or advanced age can lead to extensive deterioration. You may apply a roof coating, replace deteriorated base flashings or patch leaks that have led to water intrusion, but take note that replacing an old deteriorated roof membrane is difficult to perform with a consistent level of quality.
Incorrectly identifying the sources of water infiltration may lead to pointless repairs in your home. This will only result more damage and escalating repair costs. Once the existing system has aged, the cost of the temporary solutions may not be worthwhile; the money would be better spent recovering or replacing the roof. A number of considerations, including your home’s location, the current roofing system you have in place, construction costs and schedules, occupant needs and preferences, the home’s style and more will all affect what you ultimately decide on doing. All these are issues that can affect your entire roof’s performance, so you must weigh your decisions with care.
Roofing is the kind of thing that is best left to the professionals. You need to call in an inspector to estimate the roof’s remaining service life.
Having construction pros come in to inspect your system should help you better pinpoint any related code or technical issues that’ll you need to set to rights.
Replacing Your Roof
When the roof reaches the end of its useful life, you should already have made viable plans for the complete removal and replacement of your existing roofing system. In some states, a new roofing system can be installed over an existing roof as an alternative to roof replacement. Known as re-roofing, it brings many advantages, such as the cost savings of not having to remove and dispose of the existing roof membrane. Most homeowners prefer a full tear-off, however, which is usually necessary, especially if:
Roof tear-off is mandated building codes in your area.
The existing roofing system is beyond being serviceable as a substrate for a re-roofing project.
Extensive moisture exists below the membrane.
The existing system attachment cannot provide adequate wind uplift resistance or fire protection for a new roof assembly.
The underlying structural deck has deteriorated significantly.
The roof assembly contains phenolic foam insulation, which, can lead to sulfonic and formic acids that can corrode steel.
As homeowner, it falls on you to make educated decisions related to your roof’s maintenance, repair and replacement. You should learn about the roofing materials available to you, their role within a system and their expected performance relative to your building and location. Understanding the importance of maintaining a healthy, leak-free roof throughout its lifetime can help you better understand what is expected of you as a homeowner. Knowing your roof’s condition and personally seeing that it gets the care it needs should prepare you to make the best decisions for your roofing every time.