Roof Maintenance

Your roof consistently has your back (rather, your head). So why not ensure that one of your best lines of defense against the perils of Mother Nature is maintained? Yes, I know. Heights are scary. Acrophobia is the 3rd most common phobia in the world. You know what else is scary?  Expensive home repairs that require you to dip into your “rainy day funds” or “need to get-a-way funds.” A simple routine check could help you prevent costly repairs. I think exploring the boundaries of your phobia is less harmful than spending away your retirement funds.

While you don’t need to grab your ladder every weekend, it wouldn’t hurt to incorporate it into your home inspection routine every once in a while. There are some conditions that should be monitored to prevent roof damage and to help you get the longest life out of your roof-covering materials. Certain types of damage can lead to water and pest intrusion, structural deterioration, and the escape of costly energy. In other words, “Dot your i’s and cross your t’s”.squirrel on the roof, courtesy of Steve Baker,


The most common form of damage to a roof is environmental. Outside of the obvious damage from storms, weathering is nature pulling a “long con” on your home. Strong, sustained winds can cause uplift to the edges of shingles and shakes, which can weaken their points of attachment and allow rainwater and melting snow to reach the roof’s underlayment. Essentially, undermining the purpose of the roof entirely.

The most common form of damages associated with roofs are those generated by storms. With storms usually comes wind, incredibly strong wind. Wind can send projectiles through the air, which can damage every surface of the home’s exterior, including the roof. After a storm would be the most ideal time to inspect your roof. The sooner you are aware of any damage, the better. The important things to inspect are whether you have lost any roof-covering materials or if any parts look particularly weathered or damaged. A small fix now could prevent costly repairs later.


Whether it be scratches from low-hanging branches or a branch that decided to “jump ship” and ended up on your roof, surrounding trees should be high on your inspection list.  Remember to take the time to cut back branches to avoid damage from both abrasion and impact. Really, it’s a win – win situation, the fewer branches within close proximity of your roof, the less tree debris that will find its way onto your roof and into your gutters! This will be important later in the year when/if you are in a region that has snowfall. Proper drainage will alleviate your roof of any excess weight that may be stressing the structural soundness. Of course, it’s especially important to make sure that tree limbs near the home’s roof and exterior are a safe distance away from utility and power lines. While it is important, Tree-trimming may be better off left to the professionals, they seem to know what they are doing.

Animal Damage

Like all “mothers-to-be” squirrels and raccoons (not to mention, the occasional rat) are in search of a place for their family to call home. Unfortunately for you, your roof is perfect. In their search, they tear through shingles and roof sheathing. Often attacking the roof’s eaves first, especially on homes that have suffered decay to the roof sheathing due to a lack of drip edges or from problems caused by ice damming, because decayed sheathing is softer and easier to tear through. If you hear any activity of wildlife on your roof, it would be in your best interest to check inside your attic for evidence of pest intrusion, as soon as possible. Besides hearing tiny footprints above you, a major indicator is damaged insulation, which pests may use for nesting material. Darkened insulation generally indicates that excess air is blowing through some hole in the structure (caused by animals) causing the insulation to become darkened by dirt or moisture, which could lead to the degradation roof materials.

Biological Growth

Other obstacles that Mother Nature throws your way are algae, moss and lichen.  All of which are biological growths that may be found on asphalt shingles under certain conditions. Some professionals consider this growth destructive, while others consider it merely a cosmetic problem. Cosmetic in the sense that Asphalt shingles may become discolored by the spread of airborne spores released by these biological growths. The presence of biological growths on shingles indicates the presence of excess moisture, which is why these problems are more common in areas with significant rainfall and high relative humidity. Though, even in dry climates, roofs that are shaded most of the time can develop biological growth. Algae can feed on mineral nutrients, such as the calcium carbonate in limestone used as asphalt shingle filler. Calcium carbonate also causes asphalt to retain moisture, which also promotes algae growth, so shingles with excessive filler may be more likely to suffer more algae growth. The rate of filler consumption is slow enough that it’s not generally considered a serious problem.

Algae attach to the shingle by secreting a substance that bonds it tightly to the surface. Growth can be difficult to remove without damaging the roof. The best method is prevention. Not unlike Moss, which is a greenish plant that can grow more thickly than algae. While, it attaches itself to roofs through a shallow root system that can simply be brushed away, it deteriorates shingles by holding moisture against them. Because this is a slow process, moss is mostly a cosmetic issue. Lichens are composite organisms consisting of a fungus and a photosynthetic partner, such as green or blue-green algae. Lichens form a tight grip and when removed, take bits of the shingle with them. Damage from lichen removal can resemble blistering.

Another potentially problematic incident that could occur is “Tobacco-juicing.” This is the brownish discoloration that appears on the surface of shingles, under certain weather conditions. Usually temporary and after especially long periods of intensely sunny days, damp nights and no rain, water-soluble compounds may seep out of the asphalt from the shingles and be deposited on the surface.  Tobacco-juicing isn’t problematic in the sense that it will do damage to asphalt shingles rather, the cosmetic damage as it could run down the roof and stain siding. Although it’s more common in the West and Southwest, it can happen anywhere that weather conditions are right. Luckily, this is an easy fix! Simply spray-wash or paint the exterior of the home to remove tobacco-juicing.

More roof maintenance to consider

Roof Penetrations (A.K.A Vents)

All residing under the same umbrella term, Roof Penetrations (Vents, Skylights, Chimneys, etc.), require just as much maintenance as any other aspect of your roof. Ideally, they are located in such a way that they are structurally sound. However, if they are not, the presence of any sort of penetration is essentially undermining the architectural soundness of the house. So, they are definitely something that you should inspect.

Vents (also known as Flues) are the most common type of roof penetration, every home has to have them. Their purpose is to expel gas or moisture of some sort from an appliance or area inside the house. The critical installation that keeps moisture and the elements from entering the roof surface down the side of the vent is called flashing. There are different types of flashing that are required for certain types of vents. Using the wrong one is usually where they problem begins.  Of course, a leak in the attic, or any signs of rust or staining on the vent, flashing or roof is a sign of a problem. If you do suspect a problem, your first call should be to your home inspector!