Regular roof maintenance is key to avoiding dangerous and costly damage to your home. Likewise, regular roof inspections are the key to a good roofing maintenance routine. Use this quick guide to learn how to inspect your roof for early signs of damage, when to replace or repair your roof and how to secure any necessary permits.
When to Worry About Roof Maintenance
When it comes to the maintenance of your roof, more is more. Frank Lesh, of the American Society of Home Inspectors, urges homeowners to conduct roof inspections frequently. If you spot damage right away, you can repair it before it grows into a bigger—and more expensive—problem. As a rule of thumb, evaluate the state of your roof after any heavy storm or high wind.
A house does not have a check engine light. Homeowners should inspect their roof any chance they get.
Frank Lesh | Executive Director
What to Look For
The best way for a homeowner to evaluate their roof after severe weather is to use binoculars. If you have a sturdy ladder, you can climb up for a closer look, but unless you have experience, you shouldn’t get onto the roof yourself. Rick Damato, of Roofing Contractor, explains that moving around on a roof is dangerous even for professionals, especially when the roof may be damaged.
Whether you’re using binoculars or a ladder, look for these warning signs of roof damage:
- Tree limbs or other large debris on the roof.
- Shingles that are curling at the edges.
- Missing shingles.
- Shingles on the ground.
- Peeling flashing.
- Penetrations in the roof.
- Sagging gutters.
- Wet spots in your attic or ceiling.
How to Hire a Roofing Inspector
A DIY roof inspection can only take you so far. If you spot any of the above warning signs, it’s time to call in a professional inspector to determine the full extent of any damage and the best way to repair it. Start your search for a roofing inspector using either The American Society of Home Inspectors or the International Association of Certified Home Inspectors. Both organizations require their members to pass rigorous exams, plus take regular classes in order to maintain their certification. Members are also prohibited from performing repairs on the homes they inspect, meaning they have no incentive not to be honest.
When to Replace Your Roof
If the inspection reveals problems, handy homeowners can handle simple roof maintenance, like nailing down loose shingles or removing debris, themselves. But according to Lesh, “If there are numerous missing shingles or a lot of cupping or curling of the shingles, then it would be best to have the roof replaced or repaired by a professional.”
When looking for a contractor to replace your roof, start by simply Googling your chosen candidates. “All of our reputations are out there online,” says Damato. “So that’s always the first box to check.” Once you’ve chosen a contractor, the most important thing is to be sure you fully understand the contract before signing it.
If you have any problem at all understanding the contract, have a lawyer look it over. It’s not at all expensive relative to the risk of exposure when you tear a roof off. It’s important to the homeowner because your roof protects the entire asset.
Rick Damato | Editorial Director, Roofing Contractor
Securing a Permit for Roof Maintenance
Always check with your city’s building department for permit requirements before beginning any type of roofing maintenance. If you begin work without a permit when one is required, a city inspector can issue a stop-work order until the permitting process is complete. This could leave your roof exposed to the elements—and at risk of greater damage—for an extended period. Working without a permit is also a building code violation that could make your home difficult to sell in the future.
The Permitting Process
To obtain a permit, you’ll need to fill out forms from your city’s building department explaining what type of project you’re planning and how you plan to complete it. The city may approve your permit immediately, or they may require their own inspection first. Following an inspection, the city may require changes or additions to your plans.
Costs and Timing
Permitting fees vary widely by location, but on average, roofing permits cost between $400-$900. Generally, it takes a maximum of 30 days for the city to approve a permit. Timing will vary by location and the type of work you’re planning.
Keep in mind that if a contractor is handling your roof repairs, they should be handling the permitting process as well. In fact, this is a requirement in many jurisdictions.
With a little knowledge, some online resources and a pair of binoculars, you’re ready to carry out inspections whenever necessary to keep your roof in good repair for years to come. Need to know more about roof maintenance? Check out our exceedingly comprehensive Guide to DIY Home Improvement for how-tos on all the most common roofing projects, plus much more.