Roof Inspections Can Nail Down Problems

From Associated Press

Many homeowners rarely think twice about what goes on above them, until raindrops start falling on their heads. But even if you don’t notice any immediate problems, it’s wise to a make a roof inspection a regular part of your home’s exterior maintenance.

Roof damage arises from a variety of sources. Many homeowners plant the seeds of roof deterioration from inside by not installing adequate insulation, vapor barriers and ventilation in ceilings or attics.

This permits warm, moist air to rise to the underside of the roof. Condensing there, it can rot the rafters and eventually even the roof deck. It damages the roofing itself. Roofing materials also perish from constant exposure to the elements.


For a thorough roof inspection, in the spring and in the fall, the only tools you’ll need are a flashlight, screwdriver, putty knife, binoculars and a ladder.

After a hard rain, examine the underside of the roof deck. Poke with your knife and screwdriver to locate wet, darkened or deteriorating wood on the ceiling beams or rafters.

If you find any, trace the moisture path to its origin. This may be tough; the steeper the roof’s pitch, the farther the moisture can travel from its entry point to where it is collected.

Next, turn off the lights and look for pinholes or cracks of daylight in the roof surface. When you find the leak, measure its location in relation to a reference point, like a chimney or vent stack. This will help in locating it from the top of the roof.

Aside from checking the shingles, you should also inspect the flashing and the rain gear. Flashing is the thin metal band that forms a watertight seal where the chimneys, vents, dormers, skylights and vertical walls meet or enter the roof.

Rain gear--the roof’s downspouts and gutters--channels water from the roof to the ground. In doing so, it prevents water stains on siding, trim and masonry and reduces the chance of decay and ice damage to those parts. Rain gear also reduces water dripping from the side of the roof and eroding soil where it lands.


While standing on the ground, search the roof with binoculars. Look for obvious trouble spots, like missing, cracked or warped shingles. Then search for loose flashing or rust stains on the flashing caused by corroding nails.

Pay close attention to flashing around chimneys, vent stacks and in roof valleys. Check for cracks in the roofing tar that is often used with the flashing or that has been applied over leaks. Unclog gutters if necessary.

Different types of roofing show characteristic signs of wear. Asphalt shingles may crack, warp or show bald spots where mineral granules have worn away. Wood shingles and shakes often cup and become brittle by exposure to the sun. Tile and slate frequently chip, crack or come loose. Built-up roofs can reveal bare patches from blown-away gravel or curled roofing felt.

Once you find the trouble, how do you decide if it needs a quick patch up or professional attention? If your exterior inspection turns up a few missing, loose or split shingles, defective flashings or clogged gutters, you can probably handle it, provided the roof isn’t too steep or too high.

But you may discover decayed rafters or large areas of bad shingles. In these cases, call in a qualified roofing professional to evaluate the damage and suggest possible cures.