Your roof is one of the most expensive home-related investments you’ll ever make, yet roofs are also one of the most neglected parts of the house.
Some roofing experts recommend inspecting your roof twice per year, while others suggest once every three months. A yearly inspection at minimum is recommended. Regular inspections and maintenance will help homeowners save money on costly repairs and replacement projects.
We’ve outlined tools you'll need and tips to follow to prolong the durability, aesthetic value, and security of your roof.
Caring for your roof isn’t difficult or time-consuming if you do it regularly. It’s an easy task to accomplish if you’re outfitted with the right tools for the job. Below are some basic maintenance tools to make the job a breeze.
Basic Roof Maintenance Tools:
- Soft-to-medium bristle push broom
- Roofing cement
- Polyurethane sealant
You may also need:
- Snow roof rake
- Tree trimmer/chain saw
- Zinc strips and galvanized roofing nails
1. Remove Debris
If you do nothing else for your roof, this should be it. Simply removing debris from your roof helps in several ways.
- helps prevent water buildup, since things like pine needles and tree limbs can prevent your roof from properly shedding water
- debris adds weight to your roof that can eventually cause sagging or even total failure
- bird droppings and certain types of leaves/pine needles can eat away at your roof causing premature aging
2. Trim Back Tree Limbs
Trim any tree branches that appear to be on the verge of falling onto the roof. If you notice water collecting in a particular area of the roof, or if water damage is already visible, it may be because tree limbs are blocking the sun from properly drying the area. Consider pruning trees to help control water drainage issues.
3. Remove Algae and Fungus
Stubborn algae, moss, and fungi can grow on virtually any type of roof, even roofs designed to prevent it.
Remove the growth of algae and fungus by mixing up equal parts bleach and water in a sprayer and applying it to the affected areas.
Once the roof is cleared of the black or green gunk, you can prevent future problems by installing a zinc strip near the ridge of your roof. (Copper and lead strips are also available.) As rainwater runs over these strips, the zinc particles are absorbed in the water, which then coats the roof with a protective layer.
These strips are easy to install by sliding them about an inch under a line of shingles near the ridge and nailing them down with galvanized nails. Apply a little sealant to each nail head to protect against leaks.
KEEP READING: Should I Replace My Shingle Roof or Repair It?
4. Snow and Ice Removal
You can clear heavy snow and ice from the roof using a roof rake, but be very cautious not to have the snow come crashing down onto you.
Snow and ice can put significant stress on a roof structure, so do your best to keep the roof free and clear of ice dams, icicles, and heavy snow. Always remain cautious when removing large amounts of snow or ice, as both have the potential to cause serious injury.
5. Clean the Gutters
Your gutters can only handle so much weight before failing. Backed up water in gutters increases the strain on the system, while also being a popular breeding ground for pesky mosquitos. Clear leaves, sticks, and shingle granules from your gutters to prevent clogs.
Learn more about repairing a number of different roofing materials:
- Shingle Roof Repair at a Glance
- Getting Your Tile Roof Repaired: Everything You Need to Know
- Fundamentals of Shake Roof Repair
6. Apply Roof Cement to Lifted Shingles
If you notice lifted shingles—especially after a windstorm—you may be able to solve the problem yourself with a little roofing cement.
Not addressing lifted shingles can lead to water penetration, which can cause serious structural damage.
Apply a proper sealant to the underside of the lifted shingle, and press firmly. The cement should help it lay flat.
7. Remove Standing Water
Brush or squeegee standing water from the rooftop. This is particularly important if you have a flat roof and/or the roof gets very little direct sunlight during the day. The sun helps eliminate moisture buildup.
Once ponding water is cleared from the roof, try to determine the cause of it. Common culprits include:
- roof pitch may not be steep enough
- tree limbs shade the roof all day
- roof is sagging due to structural issues
If it’s an easy fix, try remedying the issue yourself. Otherwise, have a roofing contractor come out and take a look at it. Fixing the problem early can save you a lot of money later on.
8. Inspect Flat Roofs for Cracks, Blistering, or Seam Failure
EPDM, TPO, built-up, modified bitumen, and other types of single-ply flat roofing products should be checked at least once a year for cracking and blistering. Pay special attention to the seams where water tends to sneak under the roofing material.
For small holes or cracks, you can buy some roofing sealant from your local home improvement store.
It may not be a permanent fix, but it can help prolong the usable life of the roof. If you notice large amounts of water leakage, or significant cracking and blistering, it's best to leave these large repairs to a professional.
To learn more about common commercial roof repair practices and what to watch out for, check out our in-depth guide: Commercial Roof Repair 101
Learn more about different commercial roofing systems:
- Everything You Need to Know About EPDM Roofing
- Understanding Built-up Roofing
- The Ultimate Guide to TPO Roofing
9. Roof Flashings
The vast majority of roof leaks—as much as 95%—occur because of damaged or improperly installed flashing. Inspect the flashing around vents and chimneys to ensure a watertight seal.
Small holes can be plugged with roofing cement, and holes up to ¾ of an inch can be patched with flashing material. To attach a patch:
1. Roughen the area around the hole with sandpaper or a wire brush.
2. Clean out any remaining debris from the hole.
3. Cut material larger than the hole and attach it with roofing cement.
4. Cover with a layer of roofing cement.
10. Inspect Seals Around Skylights
The seals around skylights can wear out over time, and can often cause leaks. Inspect the seals for damage, and check the drywall for any staining, bulging, or discoloration. Damaged flashing is another common culprit for leaking skylights.
Fortunately, there are a few easy repair options available:
- Use roofing cement to plug gaps or holes in the flashing
- Apply a 100% silicone caulk around leaks or cracks in the skylight lens
- If it’s a more serious leak, replace the entire metal flashing around the frame of the skylight