Many new car owners hear this piece of advice: Follow the maintenance schedule, have your oil changed regularly, and your vehicle will last years, even decades. The advice is generally sound—there are plenty of cars from the 1990s still on the road.
The same advice can apply to your roof as well. Whether it’s brand-new or has reliably served your home for years, regular maintenance can extend the life of your roof for years.
Before you attempt any maintenance on your roof—and we can’t stress this enough—be careful when climbing or performing any actions on ladders or on top of your house. You want to be diligent with your roof, but you want to be diligent with yourself. Work with another person whenever possible, and if you don’t feel comfortable on ladders, with heights, or with a repair that suddenly looks more difficult once you get up to your roof, don’t hesitate to call a professional to help with this maintenance.
Also, avoid walking on your roof if you can help it. Damaging shingles or tiles and exacerbating any leaks can occur simply by walking across them. There might be times when you must step on your roof; if so, be cautious in order to avoid any damage and, of course, to not fall off.
With those safety precautions in mind, here are five maintenance tips to extend the life of your roof:
1. Take an occasional look at your roof
Homeowners can become complacent with their roofs if there aren’t any apparent problems. Leaks are concerns, as are missing shingles that are obvious from the ground. In the absence of these two issues, believing everything is hunky-dory with your roof is too easy. Actually inspecting your roof once in a while is important for seeing what’s actually going on up there. Problems with shingles or tiles will be more evident from up high than your driveway. Take a look at the flashing around chimneys, skylights, and other protrusions. What kind of shape are the gutters in (we’ll talk about that more next)? Doing inspections periodically, as well as after storms or high winds, is a smart maintenance habit that can identify problems before they become disasters.
2. Clean the gutters
You might think of your roof and gutters as two separate entities, but they are both part of the same system that keeps the top of your home functioning. Clogged gutters prevent water from leaving the roof, which ultimately can damage shingles. Clogs can also add to the weight of the gutters, possibly pulling the brackets off the roof and causing more damage. It’s a tedious job, but make sure you are cleaning the leaves and debris from your gutters. Besides being better for the gutters, it’s ultimately better for the roof.
3. Leaves and trees
Leaves are annoying in gutters, but for houses with minimal slope, leaves can also collect on your roof. If leaves, as well as any broken branches and other debris, are not removed, they can pile up, trap water, and ultimately damage your roof. Leaves are not the only arbor-related concern—trees that offer your house shade and greenery can also wreak havoc on your roof in the form of branches that grow into shingles and tiles. If you have large trees close to your roof, be sure to have any problem branches pruned.
4. Remove snow and ice
The DMV got 56 inches of snow in winter 2009–2010 and then just two inches a couple winters later. Yes, our snowfalls are a little unpredictable, but when the heavy stuff starts falling (six inches or more is a good guideline), think about brushing the snow off your roof. Specialized snow rakes help with this removal, but regular shovels can be used as well. A bigger concern is that an ice dam will form on your roof. An ice dam is simply a ridge of ice that prevents snow from melting and draining off your roof (here’s a good explanation of an ice dam from experts in Minnesota, where ice is a way of life), which, of course, can lead to damage. Finally, ice hanging from gutters or damming within can pull brackets off the roof; take care to keep gutters as ice-free as possible during our wacky winters.
5. Don’t put off repairs
If you see roof problems that you can’t easily repair on your own, don’t hesitate to call a roofing repair expert to help with the fix sooner rather than later. Small roof problems can escalate into something bigger and more expensive in a hurry. Also, if you aren’t sure if something on your roof is a problem or not, get professional advice. The money you spend on a repair is an investment, thus leading to an extended life for your roof.
How often do you perform maintenance on your roof?