You probably don’t give a lot of thought to the roof on your home until it starts to leak. And by the time that happens, it could be too late to stop the water damage that can occur. An annual roof inspection can help prevent unwelcome surprises and help your roof last for many years to come. While you can do your roof inspection on your own if you know what to look for, it’s always a good idea to enlist the help of a professional roofing contractor.
We’ve put together a handy checklist to help you know what signs of damage to look for, and why:
Inspecting the exterior of your roof
Your roof isn’t just shingles – it’s composed of many different parts that you’ll need to inspect. Here are the exterior roof components that should be carefully examined, and a few extra red flags to look out for:
- Overall damage, sagging and aging. If you can see any obvious warning signs of damage like roof valleys collecting water or blocked gutters, that’s an issue that needs attention.
- Shingles. Look for missing shingles and shingles that are curled, buckled, cracked, broken or blistered. Depending on the level and extent of the damage, you might be able to replace the damaged shingles, or you might have to completely reshingle your roof. Check for raised nails that need to be hammered back into place. And if you see a large amount of shingle granules (that gritty stuff that covers them) in your gutters, it might be the end of your shingles’ life cycle.
- Roof flashing. This isn’t a part of the roof that most people are familiar with – but it’s an important one. Roof flashing is a waterproof material (usually thin metal) used to line the planes cornering chimneys, vents, skylights, joints and edges. It prevents water from entering gaps. Cracked, warped or rusted flashing could lead to water damage inside your home, so repair or replace it quickly.
- Skylights. If you’re doing an entire roof replacement, it’s best to install new skylights at the same time – re-flashing an old skylight can create new problems in its structure, cause issues to your new roof and could even void its warranty. It might be worth taking a look at energy efficient models, too, since they’ll save you money in the long run!
- Fascia. This is the board that runs along the roofline and holds gutters in place. Make sure to look for cracks, splinters and discoloration – these could lead to the fascia eventually detaching from your home. Replace damaged fascia because they need to be able to hold your gutters up during a torrential downpour.
- Chimneys. Although technically not part of the roof itself, while on you’re up there it’s a good idea to check the chimney for any cracks or deterioration.
- Plumbing vents. These vents help to regulate air pressure in your plumbing system. On the roof, the vent is sealed off with a rubber collar which tends to crack after many years. Sealants and tapes offer a temporary fix at best. In this instance, a work around isn’t your best option.
- Moss and lichen growth. If you see masses of moss and lichen, or even algae or piles of leaves, it’s a sign that your roof could be decaying underneath. They trap moisture, and moss especially soaks up water like a sponge! If your roof is susceptible to any of these, you might consider springing for moss-resistant shingles when you do replace your roof.
- After a hailstorm or significant snow load. Always check your roof for damage after a weather event like a hailstorm or snowstorm. It’s best to catch it immediately after it happens, to avoid any issues filing a claim.
TIP: Never climb your roof to inspect it – not only is it dangerous, you could also cause further damage. Start your inspection from down below using binoculars, and then use a sturdy ladder to get a closer look, working your way around the house.
Inspecting the interior of your roof
Often, it’s what’s underneath your roof that will tell you if there’s any damage. Start at the bottom of your home and work your way up to the top – the attic (if you can access it safely) – and look for these signs of damage:
- Mould caused by moisture. If you see (or smell) discolouration on your ceiling it might be mould. It can be toxic and may trigger health problems, so it’s important to investigate the source of the moisture leaks.
- Sagging between rafters. Slight sagging might not be of immediate concern but should definitely be inspected closely. Sagging may be from rot, delamination, or materials that don’t perform well long term.
- Ventilation issues. If you find your home considerably warm in the summer and freezing in the winter, you might have a roof ventilation problem. Look for issues that result from moisture such as ice dams, mould, and rust.
- Light coming through cracks. If you can see light coming in when you’re in your attic, that’s a sure sign that water’s coming in, too.
- Water staining or leaks on ceilings or interior walls. If you can see any telltale water trails (usually brown) down the walls, or unsightly stains on your ceilings, it could very well be a leaky roof that’s causing it. Small leaks can lead to bigger problems – including health issues caused by mould – so have it looked at right away if you find any.
- Peeling wallpaper. If you don’t address the root problem of why your wallpaper is peeling, the problem will persist. Water is most like the cause and you’ll have to identify where it’s coming from.
- Cracked wall or ceiling paint. This could again be caused from an overhead roof leak. A trickle between the ceiling’s drywall panels, can cause the joint tape to loosen, creating the appearance of a crack, and leaving unsightly yellow or brown stains.
TIP: Be sure to notify your insurance company if you’ve upgraded your roof. It may even lower your insurance rate.
Taking the time to regularly inspect your roof will increase the life expectancy. Plus, you’ll save cash by protecting the inside of your home from costly water damage. Catching damage early could even mean the difference between a few hundred dollars for a repair, or several thousand for a replacement! If you find roof damage, be sure to act on it right away and have it repaired by a professional roofing contractor.