How to identify the signs your roof may need repair

October 15, 2014

It may be out of sight, but the condition of your roof should never be out of mind. Regular inspections can turn up problems before they get serious. Here's what to look for.

How to identify the signs your roof may need repair

The state of your roof is seldom a worry for the first decade or two of its life. But as it reaches its natural age limit, which differs for each roof type, it’s important to make an annual inspection of any problems that have cropped up—or that may develop soon—before it becomes necessary to call in a roofing expert.

Why inspect it?

The reason is simple. On one hand, you may spot small problems that you can easily address now, before they get worse. On the other, if the defect is either widespread or serious enough that you need to call in a professional roofing contractor, the smart consumer will definitely want to have a good handle on what’s involved before getting a quote on the repair.

  • What's more, the longer an issue with your roof goes undiagnosed, the more likely it will cost to fix as damage—both seen and unseen—continues to worsen.

Starting inside

Start your inspection inside. Look around in your house for signs of slow leakage like discoloured ceilings.

  • If you have an attic, take a flashlight and examine every visible part of the roof.
  • Water getting in should be fairly obvious. Mark the area well and make notes of every irregularity you spot.
  • Take photos to document what you see. They will help you determine if the problem is getting worse over time.

Outside and up

Next, walk around the house’s perimeter and look for more staining evidence on the fascia or at the corner of the roof.

  • Next it’s time to get up there, either to survey the roof from a stable ladder or actually climb aboard — although an amateur should never attempt to walk on a highly-sloped roof. It’s just not worth the risk.

The enemies

The principal enemies of roofing are age, water, debris, sunshine, ice, and wind. Alas, here in Canada, we have all of the above. So have a good look around. Note if there are areas of damage, accumulations of leaves and other gunk, or any pooling of water.

  • One of the easiest problems to spot is what’s called cupping. That’s when asphalt shingles roll up at the edge, and it’s a sure sign that total shingle resurfacing is necessary.
  • Less easy to find are the cracks, bubbling, and separation that can affect flashing, which is the galvanized steel sheeting that you’ll see at the roof’s edges and corners. If you’re seeing water damage inside but all else seems sound, it’s usually a flashing problem. A quick fix can be to apply a new layer of tar sealant over the original.

Special note about winter leaks

Sometimes you’ll find that your roof leaks only in winter, which doesn’t seem to make sense.

  • If you can, put the ladder up on a nice sunny day. Chances are you have what’s called an ice dam, an icicle-like accumulation that backs up water and causes it to penetrate shingles in a way they were not designed to protect. Depending on its source, this problem may be a step above the average homeowner’s pay grade. Time to have a professional figure that out!

Most people tend to take the condition of their roof for granted until it leaks. By the time that happens, there's a chance the damage is beyond cosmetic. By looking out for signs of trouble and knowing what to spot, a regular roof check-up can save you money and lots of aggravation in the end.

The material on this website is provided for entertainment, informational and educational purposes only and should never act as a substitute to the advice of an applicable professional. Use of this website is subject to our terms of use and privacy policy.
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