How to Determine when You Need a New Roof or Shingle Repair:
Visually Inspect Shingles, Flashing, and Roof Structure
© 2009 by Kelly Smith all rights reserved
Many homeowners fail to give their shingles the respect they deserve. How do you know when its time
to seek out a licensed and bonded roof contractor? Here's how: perform a visual inspection on a
Mark the calendar and do it on a periodic basis, 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
the actual labor, Angies List is the
premier place to find a roofing contractor based on feedback of other homeowners in your area.
This makes much more sense than playing yellow pages Russian roulette.
Items to Pay Attention to During the Roof Inspection
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.).
Its 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.
Roof Composition Shingles.
The majority homes of homes today have the
asphalt/fiberglass mat variety but youll 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 theyre nearing the end of their lifespan. Replace as necessary, but its 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 its swooping down
between rafters, your sheathing may be at fault.
If its 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 the Attic
Eyeballing the inside of your attic space is a wonderful analysis tool. What should you look
for? Daylight shining through where it shouldnt is a big no-no. That's an obvious leak.
Discoloration present on your sheathing and/or trusses will indicate where rain has invaded your
attic. Be aware that it will sometimes blow a bit in the ridge vents during 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
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 its finally time to bite the bullet, take your time and do due diligence when
selecting a roofing contractor. Search for a company thats well established, will provide solid
references, has a good name with the local Better Business Bureau, and finally, is licensed and bonded.