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spring roof inspection

A spring roof inspection is vital to ensure that your home makes it through the summer months without water damage. Here’s how to check out your roof yourself, always keeping safety in mind of course.

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Winter can be tough on everybody and everything, and that includes your home. It has been pummeled by harsh winds, subjected to freezing temperatures, pelted with snow and sleet and freezing rain, and may even have had a blanket of all that icy precipitation sitting on top of it, slowly melting.

Add in to that the potential for fallen tree branches hitting it, enterprising wildlife looking for a way out of the cold, and drainage problems from ice in the gutters — your home has definitely had an interesting few months.

More than a cursory look

Many homeowners simply glance up at the roof every now and then, and don’t pay much attention to it that cursory look. They might not notice any problems until the day when water begins to drip from their ceiling, or water stains appear on the drywall. By then, they’ve had a roof problem for a long time, and the damage is likely worse than it appears.

Nip that problem in the bud by sticking to a strict schedule of inspection. Look at your roof every spring, and then evaluate it again in the fall. By doing this, you will be able to catch most problems before they start.

How to adequately inspect your roof

Roof InspectionThe National Roofing Contractors Association recommends a regular check-up of your roof by a licensed contractor. However, that can be expensive, and many homeowners feel that they can do a thorough job themselves. If you do choose to inspect your roof on your own, there are a few things you should remember.

First, have the proper tools. The most important tool, by far, is a powerful pair of binoculars. It’s very difficult to see roof problems from the ground with the naked eye; you will need some help to get a good view. A good pair of binoculars can allow you to inspect every square inch of the roof that you can possibly see from the ground, and that can mean spotting problems early. Here are a few things to look for when you are scanning the roof:

  • Anything that looks like a break or cut in the shingle is exactly that; it’s an area of damage. Sometimes a shingle will lose a small corner to wind or tree damage. That might mean that the shingles are reaching the end of their life and disintegrating.
  • Buckling, curling or blistering of shingles means they are in need of replacement. Blistering often looks like a shingle has been raised up from the flat shingle bed. Curling might happen on the ends, or on the corners. Buckling can look like the aforementioned break in the shingle, or it might be a small lift in the area, as if water has infiltrated underneath it.
  • Loose material on the roof might mean that the shingles are falling apart. Shingles are covered with granules, which add some weight and serve to protect the shingle from the elements. If those granules appear to be spread all over the roof, that’s a bad sign. Look in the gutters as well — granules often collect there.
  • Look for serious wear around any penetrations in the roof, such as around the chimney. This is often the area of the roof that will fail first, and it’s an indication that the rest of the roof is sure to follow.
  • Be careful. If you have any doubts about your own ability on a ladder or on a roof, then call a professional.

There will be parts of the roof you can’t see, even with binoculars. These are often in corners of the roof, at the end of valleys, or where the roof meets the gutters. To inspect these areas, you will need to carefully climb a ladder and take a look.

For safety, a good rule of thumb is to extend the ladder at least three feet beyond the gutter, and angle it one foot back from the house for every four feet in eave height. This should give you a comfortable place to climb. Make sure the ladder is fully secure, attached at the top to keep it from slipping, and set on firm, solid ground.

When to call in the pros

If you see any problems with your roof, call in a contractor right then. It’s important to make that call as soon as possible. Roofing contractors get very busy during the summer months, and that can mean a long waiting period to get anything done. This  can be a period during which spring and summer storms can blow through, further damaging your roof and possibly leading to water damage inside. At the very least, a contractor can put a temporary fix on your home to prevent water infiltration.

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Shannon Dauphin Lee

Shannon Dauphin Lee is a journalist and occasional novelist with a serious weakness for real estate. When she's not writing, she and her husband are taking road trips to explore covered bridges, little wineries and quaint bed-and-breakfast inns in their beloved Pennsylvania.