A roof, like any other part of your home, has a lifespan. It’s not just a flat piece of wood with shingles nailed into it; a lot of hard work and different parts go into keeping it over your head! These individual parts, like the shingles, underlayment, flashing, and decking can wear down from weather and age. Preventative maintenance will keep your roof going, but you still need to know when that maintenance is necessary!
Look at the Shingles on Your Roof
Go outside and check out your roof. The most obvious place to start when examining it is the exterior armour: your shingles. Shingles should be flat against the roof in the overlapping pattern in which they’ve been laid, and anything that looks different from this is fairly obvious, even to non-professionals. If they are curled up or cracked, have them repaired and the rest of the roof examined. If they are missing, don’t just stand there: get them replaced properly!
You can view the shingles pretty adequately from the ground, but sometimes it’s good to get out the ladder and harness to get an up-close examination. This gives you a better look to see if moisture is trapped beneath them. Indications of water penetration include dark patches, wetness, and dirty shingles. Check “upstream” of the moisture, because, well, gravity makes water run down the roof, so the problem may have started further up the slope.
Dig Through Your Roof Gutters
A less obvious indication of shingle wear and tear can be found in your gutters. Clean out your gutters and look closely at what you’re pulling out. If you notice a high amount of asphalt or composite grains, this is a good sign that the shingles are wearing down.
While you’re up there, check the physical state of the gutters and other protective pieces of the roof, like the flashing around the chimney, skylights, and vents. Flashing is metal laid around junctions where the roof has been cut into for access, and they are to protect these common points of deterioration. Broken or missing flashing can be a simple repair, provided the vents or skylight have been installed correctly. A lot of damage, though, is a good indicator of more extensive problems that will require roof repairs.
Check The Interior of Your Home For Roof Leaks
Head back inside and examine the walls and ceilings of your upper floors and attic. A leaky roof is often the culprit when there’s even a little discolouration from moisture. If water is getting into your home, the problem is going to be more than just the shingles. This, unfortunately, is how a lot of homeowners find out they need roof repairs.
Underlayment, the unsung hero of your roof, is a waterproof barrier installed under the shingles and onto the decking (the plywood boards that make up your roof) to protect it from the weather. There are several different types, like asphalt-saturated felt, rubberized asphalt, and synthetic underlayment, but they are all designed to do the same thing: keep moisture out. They protect the decking when water gets through the weak points of the shingles, but it’s not a foolproof system. Well-laid underlayment should last as long as 20 years, but the direct damage that penetrates the shingles, like wind and tree limbs, can make it vulnerable to weathering and sun damage.
Inside moisture is only a sign of worse problems. If water has penetrated the underlayment, it’s gone through the decking, too. Rotting decking is a hazard because it’s much weaker, meaning it cannot support the weight of the roof. Decking can also wear down and rot from the inside, especially in summer when the attic gets moist from the humidity. Any rotting plywood has to be replaced as soon as possible.
Some problems are easily seen and solved; others might make for nasty surprises. It’s very important for homeowners to make careful roof examinations a common maintenance task, and to know when repairs are needed. Like most home fix-ups, the sooner something is caught, the better!