This is the first in a series of posts about getting to know your home and how to take care of it. Let’s start with the roof, whose primary function is to shed water off and away from the structure. Remember, water is not your home’s friend!
As a homeowner, you should learn what kind of roof structure you have, what kind of roofing material covers it, and how old it is. Next, you should learn where things like the chimney, skylights, plumbing vents, and exhaust fans penetrate the roof because these are the most likely water entry points.
Skylights are notorious for being a source of roof leaks. Keep in mind that once through the roof, water can travel along framing and other materials to another spot where you may first notice a leak.
A gable roof (two planes meeting at a line) is the simplest kind of roof structure and consists of roofing material laid over sheathing. At the top is the ridge, and at the bottom are the eaves. A hip roof has four planes rising to meet at a point (or two points a line). Where two sections of a roof meet and go down, you have a valley. The most common type of roofing material is the asphalt shingle because it is relatively inexpensive and works well in most conditions. Other common roofing materials include slate, clay, & concrete tile, and wood shake & shingles. Asphalt shingles have a lifespan of about 20 years. Other than age, most damage to roofing material is done by wind or things falling on the roof. Any place where excess water can collect, like a valley or around a skylight, is also prone to more rapid deterioration. Excess moss, which holds moisture, is also not good for your shingles. Flashing, material placed under the shingles at places on the roof like valleys or roof/wall transitions where extra water may collect, is another important component of your roof system.
This is an asphalt shingle roof nearing the end of its’ life. Notice the moss and wide spaces between the shingles as well as the cupped and chipped edges. Also, notice the exposed nails in the lower right, which are a sign of a shoddy repair.
The good news is that if your roof is generally in good shape, leaks can be repaired. While most contractors can repair minor leaks, if you have more than one issue or if your roof is older, speak with a licensed roofing contractor. He or she can best diagnose the problem and offer solutions. For example, it may be more effective to replace a section of the roof than to simply seal around a suspected leak source. While many building departments permit laying new shingles over old ones, this should be avoided. One, by not removing the old shingles, you can’t see or repair any of the roof sheathings, if needed. Two, you can’t repair or replace any of the flashing around roof penetrations or in valleys. Lastly, most home inspectors will flag this as a deficiency, so you won’t realize the full value of your investment in the roof.
Here is a link to a good resource if you’d like to learn more about roofs. In my next post, I’ll discuss rain gutters and downspouts.