Roof Maintenance: 10 Ways to Extend the Life of Your Roof

Dirty roof needs to be cleaned

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 – doesn’t make sense. Just as you keep your lawn watered and trimmed, your roof requires maintenance to help prolong its life and ultimately save you money in the long run.

Some roofing experts recommend inspecting your roof twice per year, while others suggest once every three months. A yearly inspection is the bare minimum to shoot for.

Types of roofing shingle damage

Caring for your roof isn’t difficult or time-consuming if you do it regularly. It’s an easy job if you don’t put it off year after year. However, safety is a top priority. If you don’t feel comfortable climbing up onto the roof and doing a few basic roofing maintenance tasks, the job is best left to the pros. Most roofing contractors offer some sort of roof maintenance program that can help extend the life of your roof at an affordable price. Find a roofer near you by clicking here.

Basic Roof Maintenance Tools:

  • Ladder
  • Gloves
  • Soft-to-medium bristle push broom
  • Roofing cement
  • Polyurethane sealant

And you may also need:

  • Sprayer
  • Bleach
  • 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. First, it helps prevent water buildup since things like pine needles and tree limbs can prevent your roof from properly shedding water. Second, debris adds weight to your roof that can eventually cause sagging or even total failure. Finally, bird droppings and certain types of leaves/pine needles can eat away at your roof causing premature aging.

Use a push broom to sweep debris off the roof. Avoid using a broom with hard bristles because it may remove an excessive amount of asphalt granules from the shingles. You can also spray off the roof with a garden hose. Avoid using a power washer because a high-pressure stream of water can damage almost any type of roof, even putting dents in metal roofing.

#2 Trim Back Tree Limbs

Trim any tree branches that appear to be on the verge of falling on 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 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.

#4 Snow and Ice Removal

This is a tough one because nobody wants to get on the roof in the middle of winter. With a roof rake, however, you don’t have to get on the roof. 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.

#5 Clean the Gutters

Clear leaves, sticks and shingle granules from your gutters to prevent clogs. Your gutters can only handle so much weight before failing. Trapped water in your gutters is also a popular breeding ground for pesky mosquitos.

#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. Just apply a little to the underside the lifted shingle, and it should help it lay flat. Not addressing this problem can lead to future water damage and blown off shingles when the next heavy storm rolls into town.

#7 Remove Standing Water

Brush or squeegee puddled 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 (i.e., roof pitch is incorrect, tree limbs shade the roof all day, the roof is sagging, etc.). 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 moola later on.

#8 Inspect Flat Roofs for Cracks, Blistering and Seam Failure

EPDM, TPO, 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.

#9 Roof Flashings

The vast majority of roof leaks occur because of damaged or improperly installed flashing – as much as 95% of roof leaks. Inspect the flashing around vents and chimneys to ensure a watertight seal. If you notice some minor damage, you can apply some polyurethane sealant to help keep the water out. Contact a roofing contractor for a repair if you notice more than a few small bends or cracks in the flashing.

#10 Inspect Seals around Skylights

The seals around skylights can wear out over time. Inspect the seals for damage. If you know what you’re doing, apply some sealant made specifically for skylights, otherwise have a roofer come out and do the job.

DIY or Hire a Roofer?

Do-it-yourselfers can handle most, if not all, of the roof maintenance required to keep a roof in tip-top shape. However, hiring a roofing company to handle it for you offers several advantages, making it an attractive option for anyone:

  • Relatively affordable choice considering it will prolong the life of your roof – a visit from the roofer can run anywhere from $50 up to $200 or more depending upon what services are included
  • You don’t risk your own safety climbing up onto the roof
  • Many roofing contractors offer warranties for all services provided
  • Building a relationship with a local roofing company may land you a discount in the future when it’s time to replace your current roof
  • You can avoid accidentally making a bad situation even worse by having a professional do the job instead of trying to tackle it yourself (i.e., using the wrong type of sealants, damaging shingles, etc.)

Click here to find a roofing contractor in your state

Roof maintenance checklist

 

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Sources: Inspectapedia, RoofHelp.com, DoItYourself.com, Roofer911, This Old House