And you thought the potholes were bad.
Wait till the spring rains hit and homeowners see/feel the damage to their roofs.
According to James Kirby, associate executive director of technical communications for the National Roofing Contractors Association, the large number of freezing and thawing cycles that Chicago experienced this winter could wreak havoc on roofs.
Kirby and the Rosemont-based NRCA recommend that homeowners get out the old ladder and conduct a simple roof inspection twice a year -- and especially this spring -- in search of problems or damage. We culled five tips on how to do that -- and do it safely:
1. Level the ladder. Make sure your ladder is on solid, level ground. One way to assure extra stability is to secure the ladder at the top by wrapping a bungee cord once around the ladder rung that is at or just above the gutter level, Kirby says. Then hook the other end of the bungee onto any accessible part of the gutter. Also, be sure to extend the ladder up at least 3 feet beyond the gutter. And angle the ladder 1 foot back from a vertical position for every 4 feet in eave height. So, if your ground-to-gutter/eave height is 12 feet, you would want the bottom of the ladder to be 3 feet back from vertical.
2. What to look for. Look over the entire roof for shingles that are buckling, curling or blistering. But none of those things necessarily indicate that "you are going to have a leak and need a new roof," Kirby says. "It means that the roof is beginning to wear out and you need to start paying attention." (Kirby will not give a life expectancy for a roof. What he will say is that asphalt shingle roofs have manufacturer warranties from 25 to 50 years.)
3. Details, details. Inspect the area around chimneys, pipes and other penetrations such as skylights. Look for seams that are open and/or missing fasteners. Call a roofer to fix such problems, especially if you're still under warranty.
Also, inside your house, check walls (don't forget inside closets) and ceilings for water damage. It's best to find signs of a leak now, before big expanses of drywall need to be replaced.
4. The nitty-gritty. Look for excessive amounts of shingle granules in your gutters. Granules give shingles added weight and protect them from ultraviolet rays. If you do notice sizable amounts of loose granules in your gutters (beyond the first year's initial loss, which is normal), it's another indication that the shingles are starting to wear out.
5. Keep them clean. Speaking of gutters, clean them and downspouts at least once or, even better, two times a year. Clogged, heavy gutters that overflow in a rain storm can cause structural damage to your house's foundation and damage the fascia boards on your roof. Here's what to do:
* Remove leaves, sticks, needles and seeds with a garden trowel or gloved hand. Don't use a hose for this; downspouts could clog.
* Also remove by hand or trowel the pasty goo made up of asphalt granules and water. Then flush with a hose.
* To clean downspouts, thread a hose into the opening and turn on the water full blast. Or simply use a spray nozzle turned to the most forceful spray and shoot it down the downspout.
* Finally, after flushing, check gutters for pools that indicate low spots. Gutters should be sloped about 1 vertical inch for every 15 to 20 horizontal feet so they drain properly.
For a free Roof Checkup Guide or information about how to find a professional roofing contractor, visit nrca.net. Homeowners also can call the NRCA with technical questions, 800-323-9545.
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