For every home, there are two incredibly large aspects of the infrastructure that the rest of the house relies on to remain stable, safe, and comfortably self-contained. The first is the foundation, the concrete slab the house sits on, and the second is your roof. Roof installations are generally rated for one to three decades before the roof will need to be completely reinstalled with fresh asphalt composite shingles but it will only make it that long if homeowners take the time and effort to keep the roof in good condition during the intervening decades.
Roofs are not as sturdy and impervious as we think they are. In fact, your roof takes a small amount of damage every day and likely a moderate amount of damage every time the wind really gets to blowing. Shingles can be cracked in an impact, peeled up by the wind, or become soft and mushy if left under a pile of damp leaves for a few weeks. While it does require a professional to do a full roof inspection and to perform most repairs, you can significantly increase the health of your roof with a few safe and easy maintenance tips throughout the year.
1) Trim Back Tree Branches
The first thing you can do, whether or not you do it personally, is to trim any nearby tree branches back away from your roof. A big shady tree in your yard is a good thing. It makes the yard more welcoming, holds your soil together, and reduces your power bill in the summer by keeping the sun from over-warming your house. However, if one of those enormous branches should be blown loose in a storm, hitting your roof could cause some incredible damage and possibly require an entirely new roof installation. Make sure no branches are hanging directly over the roof and not even little branches are touching the top of the roof or gutter.
2) Clean Gutters 2-4 Times a Year
Roof health and gutter maintenance are so closely linked that it’s impossible to talk about one without the other. Most people clean their gutters once a year and this is better than nothing, but you may have noticed with this tradition that your gutters get pretty impressively full. When your gutters fill up, water does not flow cleanly through them and into the downspouts, Instead, it can pool up, soak through the leaves to induce rot and fungus, and can even clog the gutters so that water flows over the edge onto both the roof and the side of your house.
To keep everything in good working order, clean your gutters regularly. We recommend once every 3-6 months and possibly twice during the fall itself when they fill up the fastest.
3) Clear Downspout with Snake or Broom Handle
Downspouts can also fill up with leaves, dirt, and other debris that can get in the way and clog them up. Unfortunately, the downspout is a key part of your roof water management system and you need that rainwater to flow harmlessly into the concrete ‘catch’ prepared for exactly this purpose. If your downspout is clogged and you can’t shake it loose with a little knocking, a plumber’s snake is the recommended tool for the job. If you don’t have a plumber’s snake, try a broom handle from the top or hooking and pulling debris out from the bottom.
4) Use a Roof Broom to Sweep Lingering Piles
Any time you see a pile of something on your roof, this is a bad sign. While often these piles will break themselves up and move on in a day or two, anything that allows damp to sit in a protected area on your roof can lead to rapid shingle decay commonly known as “mushy spots”. When this happens, the trapped moisture essentially begins to melt the shingles and can even lead to greater underlying problems like rot in the underlayment and support beams.
Fortunately, the fix is surprisingly easy. All you need is a roof broom, which is like a large push-broom with an extending handle From the ground or the top of a securely placed ladder, simply scrape off any piled leaves, snow, or debris from your roof before it can cause problems.
5) Check and Secure Gutter Bolts
If you have been in the habit of letting your gutters fill to overflowing before cleaning them, you might not realize that additional damage is being done beyond the impediment of rainwater management. Gutters that get full of wet leaves and standing water also become unusually heavy and can start to pull away from the roof which can damage both the gutters and the roof itself. Check to make sure that your gutters are securely attached to the side of the roof about once a year.
6) Watch Out for Algae and Moss
Sometimes things will start to grow on your roof even if you’re careful about snow and leave piles. If you see bright, pale, or bluish green splotches on your roof, these are either moss or algae that have found a moist valley on your roof to live on. While the algae or moss can do damage in their own right, they are usually a sign that there was already roof trouble that will need to be repaired.
7) Inspect Shingles and Flashing
You may not be comfortable with performing your own roof repairs or able to do a complete structural inspection, but just putting your eyes on your roof every now and then is a very good idea. Once every three months, or whenever you feel there might have been recent storm damage, climb up and take a look at the state of your roof. You don’t even have to get up on the surface to get a lot of information. If you see clearly damaged or separating shingles or flashing that has rusted or pulled away from its surfaces, you will need a repair service in the near future. If your roof looks alright from your perspective, it should be safe to stick to your normal inspection schedule.
8) Install Gutter and Downspout Covers
If you don’t feel like cleaning your gutters frequently (and few people do), another solution is a handy one-time installation of gutter and drainspout covers. Gutter covers are essentially a slotted shelf panels that fit over your gutters to let water through but keep leaves, sticks, and squirrels out. Downspout covers are more like dome-grates and fit over the opening to the downspout to perform the same function.
9) Walk Through Your Attic
An important step in any roof inspection is actually taking a look at the inside of the attic. When doing your own roof maintenance between professional visits, don’t forget to keep an eye on your attic as well. Light coming through where it should be solid or signs of leaks and dampness will be indications that your roof will need service soon.
10) Regular Professional Inspections
Finally, amateur roof inspections and homeowner maintenance are a great way to extend the life of your roof and make sure that repairs are called for when clearly needed, but there are also several aspects about roof care that require the attention, tools, and skills of professional roofers. Be sure to call for a roof inspection once every 6-12 months, after major storms, or if you see visible signs of damage.