Homeowner’s Manual: Roof Covering Materials (Updated for 2021!)
IMPORTANT – Safety Note: Falling from a roof can be hazardous to your health! Do not get on a roof unless you are completely comfortable, have the proper equipment for access, and wear appropriate clothing-including rubber-soled shoes. If you have any doubts, ask a qualified roofing contractor or inspector to check the roof. Most roof repairs are best left to a qualified roofing contractor.
Asphalt Composition Shingles
Look for signs of damage or wear. Sweep off leaves and debris. Worn surfaces, missing granular coating, cracked, pitted, brittle or swollen shingles are signs that shingles may be nearing the end of their useful life. Raised shingle tabs may indicate improperly seated fasteners that can be fully re-seated; take care not to tear the shingle or poke a hole in it. Split, torn or missing shingles may cause leaks and should be replaced immediately. While on the roof, also check the condition of side walls not visible from the ground.
After you have been in your home for four or five years, you may notice a little mildew or mold on your shingles. This can easily be cleaned with one of the following: Pool Shock (used to kill algae in swimming pools) or a mixture of: ½ gallon of Clorox ½ gallon of warm water 1 cup of Tide (This mixture can be increased in like proportions.) Either of these mixtures can be applied to the roof and swept down with a broom. Note that either of these mixtures will kill grass and plants near the house if spilled on them. Take precautions to protect your landscape. Also remember these solutions may be caustic to any exposed skin. We suggest you wear gloves and appropriate clothing.
Wood Roofing Materials (Rare except on very old homes)
Can be White Cyprus, Western Red Cedar, Northern White Cedar, Red Wood, White Pine, and White Oak. The Texas area uses predominantly Cedar. Cedar roofing can be either a shake or shingle. Shakes are distinguished from shingle by their rough, non-uniformed appearance. In order to extend the service life of the Cedar roof, we suggest the following: Keep pine needles, leaves, and other organic debris off of the roof. These things trap moisture and encourage rot causing moss and fungus. Use a regular chemical cleaner. One such formula recommended by the Forest Service is a 10% solution of Copper-8 (Copper Quinoliolate) in water. This solution is non-toxic to vegetation and animals. Wear eye and skin protection when applying. Note: Oils and preservatives are controversial because they are expensive and not proven to extend the roof’s life, and rapidly leaches out of the wood.
Asphalt Roll-Roofing (Commonly Known as “Torchdown”)
Made of a similar material as asphalt shingles, these roofs are used when roofs are at too low of a pitch/incline to install shingles. Roofs may be surfaced with several different types of roofing materials. Generally, check for areas of water ponding, areas of missing aggregate coverings or gravel, tears or blisters in the surface and deep alligator cracking. Also check the condition of flashing at edges and vents. Flat roofs are prone to leak and require regular maintenance; therefore, a qualified roofing contractor should further investigate any such problems. Leaves and debris left on the roof will hold water and speed deterioration.
Concrete and Clay Tile Roofs
Easily damaged, and a thorough inspection is best left to a qualified roofing contractor. Walking on a tile roof is not recommended, as improperly shifting your weight can cause a tile to break and not only create a leak, but void your warranty! From the eaves you can check the general roof condition. Look for rotted fascia, loose/missing or cracked tiles, deteriorated caulking and sealant.
Best observed from a ladder at the eaves. Walking on a metal roof can bend panels, creating leaks. Look for loose fasteners, rusted panels, open seams, bent flashing and deteriorated caulking. Leaves and debris should be removed from roof surfaces.
Overhanging Trees: A Roof’s Worst Enemy
Tree limbs rubbing on a roof can do serious damage. Overhanging branches should be kept trimmed to provide adequate clearance even in a high wind, and to prevent insect infestation. Standard rule of thumb is that if standing on the roof and you can touch the tree branch, it is to close. Trees can grow rapidly and should be inspected at least twice a year. Oak wilt is a serious problem in many areas of Texas and can best be prevented by trimming oaks during the coldest or hottest times of year. Sterilize pruning tools with bleach, and promptly cover cuts with wound paint. Major trimming is best left to a certified arborist.
Flashings: Weak-points in a Roof
Most roof leaks occur around flashing. Metal flashing at the chimney, in roof valleys, at side walls, skylights and vents should be in good condition, not rusted or bent. They should lay flat on the roofing surface, laced in the roof covering “shingle style.” Do not nail down raised flashing. The nail puts a hole in the roof allowing water penetration.
It is advisable to inspect your skylights on the inside and outside as part of the routine maintenance of your home. Skylights might leak if there is a break in the seal. Keep the seals caulked and inspect the seals and flashing around your skylight on a regular basis.
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