It’s sometimes easy to forget that your roof needs some TLC. Taking the time to perform routine maintenance can extend your roof’s lifespan and protect your home’s interior. It may even save you money on energy costs.
If you think maintaining your roof just requires an inspection now and then, you’re wrong. Yes, you should get a roof inspection, but proper roof maintenance also means maintaining your gutters, downspouts, insulation, ventilation, trees and more.
Check out this list of essential roof maintenance tips every homeowner should follow, and learn which experts you should hire to help with the major tasks and repairs.
Unless you're hanging Christmas lights or cleaning the gutters, you likely don't spend a lot of time getting up close and personal with your roof. That’s why it's a good idea to get your roof inspected by a professional at least once or twice a year to determine if there’s any serious damage or normal wear and tear in need of your attention.
You should also walk around your home and look up for the following signs that indicate some work is needed:
If you spot any of these issues, it's time to call in a roofing expert who can safely (and thoroughly) inspect the damage and recommend repairs.
Also read: How much does a roof inspection cost?
It’s always a good idea to inspect your roof after a big storm, rain, snow, wind or other weather events. For example, in the spring, check to make sure the following didn’t happen during a winter storm:
If you notice any of these signs, contact a roofing contractor ASAP.
Every season, there are several steps you should take to prepare and protect your roof from the weather and natural elements. For example:
In the spring: Inspect your roof for damage and leaks. You should also hire a gutter cleaner to get rid of any debris that may have clogged your gutters during the winter.
In the summer: Make sure your attic is properly ventilated, insulated and not too hot. Otherwise, you risk damaging your roof. An overheated attic, combined with moisture, can damage your decking and roofing shingles, according to the Asphalt Roofing Manufacturers Association.
In the fall: Inspect your roof for cracks to save you from leaks during the winter months. Seal the cracks the roof inspector finds. Also, unclog your gutters to prevent water damage and ice dams from forming during the winter.
In the winter: Remove excess snow from your roof, and prevent ice dams. For example, talk to a roofing expert to see if installing heat cables is a good idea for your home.
Throughout the year, keep an eye on your roof and your home’s interior. If you notice any leaks, missing shingles, debris or roof sagging, water damage inside your home, get a professional’s help to identify the problem and find a solution.
Also read: Your seasonal home maintenance checklist.
Broken or missing shingles can lead to roof leaks and interior water damage. Loose shingles can easily fall off in high winds. A quick visual inspection can tell you if there are some shingles in need of repairing or replacing. If you spot anything that looks amiss from the ground, it's time to have a professional inspect the roof before the damage worsens.
While you may be able to replace a couple of shingles fairly easily, it's best to find a roofing contractor to do the job — especially if you don't feel comfortable on the roof or you’re not sure how to match new shingles to old ones. Find out how much your repairs will cost by requesting a free estimate from several roofers near you.
Roof flashing diverts water from specific areas of the roof that may be susceptible to leaks. If the flashing is broken or comes loose, rain or snow can seep in, leading to water damage. So, it's important to check the flashing around a chimney or skylight, as well as along any overhangs or roof valleys where ice dams are prone to forming.
A professional roofer can help you inspect flashing and replace any sections that are damaged or missing.
While you're checking and repairing the flashing, it's also an excellent time to inspect the caulking. A sealant can help protect your home from daily weather exposure and prevent leaks. Talk to your roofing contractor about using a sealant for any new gaps and cracks they find on your roof.
You should also ask your roofer if your old caulking should be removed and replaced with a new sealant. The sealant surrounding vent pipes, chimneys and counter flashings can shrink and expand in the cold and heat, according to the Family Handyman. As the caulking ages, it becomes dry and less flexible, which means it can crack instead of expanding and contracting. Those cracks become vulnerable to rain and snow leaking in, which can cause water damage.
Gutter maintenance is a major component of roof maintenance. Clean gutters and downspouts ensure that any rain or condensation will flow through and avoid the roofline. Gutters filled with leaves, sticks and other debris can cause clogs, which lead to water seeping under the roof and even into the foundation. It can also cause ice dams to form in the wintertime.
Clean your gutters any time there's been a big storm or if you notice leaves and other debris clogging them. If you don't feel comfortable getting up on a ladder, hire a cleaning professional instead.
In addition to cleaning your gutters, you should also inspect them for any needed repairs. If your gutters become damaged or broken, no amount of cleaning will help them function properly.
You might need to repair or replace your gutters if:
Depending on the damage, you may be able to DIY the repair. Or, you can contact a gutter or roofing professional. They can help you decide if it’s worth spending money to repair your gutter system or if you should invest in new gutters and guards.
Also read: What are the main types of gutters?
If you have trees or tall hedges near your home, a storm can easily knock down leaves and branches.
Leaves can collect on your roof, trapping moisture that can lead to mold or water damage. Overhanging branches that are close to the roofline also provide easy access for squirrels and other pests to find their way into your attic, where they can wreak havoc in various ways. And besides clogging your gutters, larger tree limbs might damage shingles, or in the worst case, break through the roof.
Trimming your trees at least once a year (experts typically recommend trimming before fall and winter) can prevent overgrowth and get rid of dead or dry limbs that can easily break off.
Pruning and trimming large branches is best left to tree trimming professionals. They’ll know how to safely remove the limbs and properly shape your trees.
Critters can wreak havoc on your home’s exterior, including your roof. Here’s a look at the damage animals and pests — birds, squirrels, bees, raccoons, etc. — have been known to cause:
So when you’re inspecting your roof, also look for “loose vent screens, roof holes and warped siding or trim board that is deteriorated and pulled away from the wall,” suggests The Humane Society. You should also have your chimney inspected by a professional to ensure no animals are holed up inside. If not, invest in an animal-proof chimney cap (if you don’t already have one).
If you notice signs of critters on your roof, inside your chimney or inside your attic, contact a pest control service ASAP.
Heating your home keeps you warm when the temperatures drop outside, but if your roof and attic are not properly insulated, that heat can escape. Not only could you be losing money in energy costs, but that escaping heat can also cause roof problems.
When the hot air meets the roof, it can cause any snow sitting on top to melt. And when the temperatures outside get colder, the water can refreeze and cause ice dams to form. Having your roof insulated correctly can prevent this from happening. Even if you already have insulation in place, it may be time for an upgrade. Aging insulation can deteriorate over time and is susceptible to damage from leaks and pests.
Icicles and ice dams forming along your gutters may be a sign that you need new insulation. To check your old insulation or add new insulation, call an expert. An insulation contractor can help you determine your needs, including the type of insulation that's best for your home.
It might seem counterintuitive, but in addition to proper insulation, a well-ventilated attic can protect your roof from damage too. Ventilation works in conjunction with insulation to keep your home warm and roof cool.
With proper attic ventilation, you can lower its temperature (which will reduce your AC costs), remove excess moisture, prevent your roof deck from overheating and prevent ice damming. And by preventing ice damming and moisture, you may lower the risk of mold and mildew growth as well as wood rot, according to the International Institute of Building Enclosure Consultants.
Homeowners should have their ventilation checked any time they add or upgrade insulation. An insulation pro can help with this.
If you live in an area susceptible to heavy snowfall, snow can pile up on your roof and freeze — leading to leaks and ice dams.
To prevent this from happening, you may need to hire a professional to rake your roof. However, avoid DIY-ing this dangerous task, recommends Consumer Reports. You don’t want to risk any icicles or blocks from falling and hitting your head.
You can do some simple roof maintenance steps yourself. However, if you don't have the right tools and experience or simply don't feel comfortable on a ladder, your best bet is to leave it to a professional.
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