Let’s be honest: if you’re reading this you probably do not do yearly inspections of your roof. I’m sure you have your reasons, like “Nothing seems broken or leaking inside the house”, “I’ve no idea what to look for anyway” or my favorite excuse: “I’ll do it next year.”
Whether you’re just a procrastinator or someone intimidated by home improvement projects, we hope that this simple step-by-step guide will get you back on track and save you a lot of money on expensive repairs. Spotting minor problems isn’t rocket science and any adult with common sense can do it!
For homes in the Chicago area (or anywhere in Illinois) yearly roof inspection is a must. Cold winters, warm, humid summers and stormy springs with hail are not kind on your roof. The earlier you detect and fix minor problems, the less likely you are going to need a roofing crew come out and re-shingle the entire roof.
Step One: Picking a Date for Inspection
To perform your inspection, choose a cooler sunny summer day. This way, you will be able to spot any potential problems easier, yet you won’t feel too hot and uncomfortable so you won’t rush through the inspection. You can also set a recurring reminder in your smart phone calendar (set it to repeat yearly). Let’s say you choose August 1st. If the day isn’t ideal, you can always change it to a later day the same week when weather conditions are going to be more favorable.
Step Two: Use your smart phone
You don’t have to get up on your roof in order to do your early inspection. If you suspect that your roof was damaged by a hail storm, then different rules apply, but if it’s just a routine yearly preventative maintenance, then you don’t need to call a roofer yet.
You can climb on a ladder half-way and visually assess the situation from there. If you are not comfortable getting up on a ladder, there are other options. You can walk around your house and look up your roof using binoculars or you can use your smart phone to zoom in and inspect your roof. If you want to do even more thorough assessment of your roof, you can record a video with your smartphone and later play it on your computer or TV. This way, you will be able to pause, zoom in and review the footage several times, especially if you see a potential problem.
Step Three: What to Look for
Here’s what to look for:
- Cracked caulk or rust spots on flashing.
- Shingles that are buckling, curling, or blistering.
- Missing or broken shingles.
- Cracked and worn rubber boots around vent pipes.
- Spots of moss and lichen, which could mean the roof is decaying underneath. Black algae stains isn’t a real problem; it’s just cosmetics.
Step Four: What to Fix
If everything looks great—congratulations! You are done with your annual roof inspection. If you do realize that some things don’t look right, here’s what you should do. Any loose, damaged, or missing shingles should be replaced immediately. Check for popped nails that need to be hammered back in place. If you’re comfortable working on a roof, then it’s not too difficult to replace shingles and caulk flashing yourself. You can get a bunch of shingles and caulk for under $50. There are plenty of YouTube videos too, so don’t be intimidated and get to work!
Metal and vinyl flashing around chimneys, skylights, and attic vents that has separated needs to be resealed with caulk. However, flashing and vent boots that are beginning to rust or deteriorate should be replaced.
If you detect large spots of moss, the best time to start taking care of them is in the fall. Apply a moss killer intended for roofs (granules for lawn-use contain iron which will stain a roof).
In the spring, use a broom to remove remaining dead moss. Spread moss killer along the ridge of the roof and on any remaining green patches. Allow about three hours to sweep the roof, clear the gutters, and apply the granules.
Step Five: Check for Leaks.
The following are signs of potential leak, which is a serious problem that needs to be addressed right away:
- Dark areas on ceilings
- Peeling paint on the underside of roof overhangs.
- Damp spots alongside fireplaces.
- Water stains on pipes venting the water heater or furnace.
Remember, leaks can only get worse, never better, so do something about them as soon as possible!
If you find worrisome signs, especially if the roof is old or there’s been a storm with heavy wind or hail, then it’s time to get a roofing professional involved.