A leaking roof can be a homeowner’s worst nightmare. This is because of the high costs and massive inconveniences associated with having to repair or even replace such a fundamental part of a house construction. Roof inspection should technically be part of any basic home inspection job. Here are some tips on how to spot potential problems with your roof as well as information on what can cause roof damage and what kind of service you should expect from a home inspector examining your roof.
The top five roof-related headaches and how to spot them
Often, homeowners do not know how to spot small roof problems which could potentially turn into big roof problems. Here are the top five roof-related problems affecting American homeowners and how to spot them:
Discolored, missing or curling shingles on the roof: Spotting these on your roof is normally straightforward with the use of binoculars and perhaps even without them if the problem is quite pronounced. This should ring alarm bells because it leaves the wood underneath the shingles vulnerable. For example, when it rains the wood can start to rot. The wood may be more susceptible to holes and general wear and tear too.
A clogged up roof gutter: From falling water to bits of twigs and leaves, all manner of things can land in your roof gutter. If it builds up, there is a risk that it could cause mildew and mold to take hold under your roof. Again, it is possible to spot this problem from ground level or, even better, with binoculars
Damaged flashing. Flashing, which is found on the waterproof areas of your roof like around the pipes and chimney, when damaged can cause water leaks. You can tell flashing is damaged if looks loose or is ripped.
Soffit damage. Soffits are the boards that go over the end of roof rafters. Sometimes birds and insects set up their own home there, causing damage. Rotting, cracks and holes are a giveaway to this problem.
A rotting fascia. The board that stretches along the front of your roof can start to rot due to moisture. A rotting fascia is easily spotted as the fascia often starts to disintegrate, break off or become discolored.
A poorly laid roof hides a multitude of sins
In many cases, homes need repairs because there are fundamental weaknesses or flaws in how they are constructed in the first place. For example, asbestos-related problems in homes are often caused by the use of products containing asbestos to construct the house. When it comes to roof problems, issues often occur because the roof was laid to a poor standard to begin with. For instance, if flashing details are not fixed well when a roof is installed then that can cause leaks to occur at a later stage. Furthermore, if a moisture barrier is not positioned with a hot bituminous roof, that might also cause leaks to happen at some point down the line. If flashing is not installed properly that can cause leaks when it comes to torch-applied modified bitumen roofs. Moreover, if roof builders fail to take very basic measures when laying a roof then that can store up potentially catastrophic problems for the future. For instance, if the area where a roof is being laid is not cleaned, dried and then primed properly beforehand then that can affect how well the roof “sticks”. In other words, the life expectancy of a roof can be dramatically reduced if builders have failed to follow basic rules.
Bad maintenance can lead to roof problems
Poor maintenance is another reason for roof problems. It is, of course, perfectly understandable that homeowners may be under financial pressure and therefore reluctant to fork out for small maintenance repairs to their roof when they have energy bills to pay and mouths to feed, especially in these tough economic times. Nonetheless, what was at first a tiny leak problem during periods of heavy rain, or a couple of fallen shingles can escalate into a massive roof problem that could cost thousands of dollars to repair if left unchecked.
What to expect of your home inspector
Unfortunately, despite the problems a faulty roof can cause to homeowners, a lot of inspectors make a poor job of making sure that roofs are up to scratch and sometimes overlook them altogether when tasked with looking around a home to identify any potential problems. You should make sure that the home inspector examining your home spends adequate time looking at the roof. In an ideal world, an inspector should actually get onto the roof to check its condition at close range. That is sometimes not always possible due to safety or access issues, however. Some inspectors try to make up for this by using binoculars to inspect the roof at ground level. You should expect a home inspector to either get directly onto your roof or examine it carefully using binoculars as a minimum standard.