Yearly checks and maintenance will increase the longevity of a roof.
By REBECCA SLOAN
You probably don't give much thought to the roof over your head -- until it starts to leak.
Although no roof will last forever, there are a few things you can do to increase the longevity of your home's roof and keep leaks at bay.
"How long a roof will last depends largely upon the type of roof you choose, the quality of the material and proper installation, but there are a few basic things homeowners can do to get the most out of that life, such as keeping the roof free of debris," said Mike Brown, of Boak and Sons in Austintown, a company that specializes in residential and commercial roofing.
No matter what type of roof you have, it is important to keep leaves, tree branches and other debris from building up.
Keeping gutters and downspouts debris-free and trimming back overhanging tree branches is equally important.
Brown recommends checking the roof at least once a year for accumulated debris and cleaning gutters at least twice a year - once after the leaves fall and once again in the spring.
"You should also check the roof for damages after severe weather," Brown said. "Roof leaks are often caused by loose shingles. This can happen if a tree branch hits the roof and tears a shingle or if there's a really strong gust of wind. Sometimes you won't even have to climb onto the roof to know damages have occurred. You will see a few shingles lying around on the ground," Brown said.
Other routine maintenance tips Brown recommends include:
*Check all flashings for signs of deterioration or holes. Flashing is a roof component used to seal the roof and help prevent moisture from entering at areas where the roof covering is interrupted or terminated, such as around chimneys, pipes, vents and the valleys between roof peeks. Areas that are flashed are most susceptible to leaks.
*Don't allow moss to take over. Climb onto the roof at least once a year and gently scrape moss away. For areas where moss has already taken hold, buy a roofing spray designed to kill fungus. Products such as these are sold at most home improvement centers.
*Dab some roof cement under any loose shingles or replace them with new ones. However, keep in mind that when you replace one shingle, you need to also tear away the other shingles nearest to it, so if you are a novice, Brown said roof cement might be the better choice.
*If your home's roof is flat, check drains for clogs. Clogged drains lead to standing water, which causes rotting and eventually leaking.
*Check all sealants -- such as caulking or tar -- for shrinkage or damage. Remove old sealant and reapply.
*Check for bubbles or blisters, but don't puncture them -- patch them.
*Hail can damage roofs, particularly older roofs, so check for torn shingles after a hail storm.
*During the winter, don't allow snow and ice to build up on the roof, but don't pick away at it with an ice pick or other sharp object. Brown said doing so could further damage the roof and the gutters. Heat tape can help in areas where ice and snow tend to accumulate, but be careful about installation and buy a quality product since heat tapes have been known to catch houses on fire. Brown recommends having an electrician install the heat tape.
*Roof coating is not the same as roof cement. Don't dump a blob of roof coating around a pipe or vent to try to stop a leak; it will only make a mess.
As mentioned earlier, the type of roof determines the life of the roof.
Roofs made of asphalt shingles are the most common type found on residential properties.
Other common types of residential roofs include single-ply roofs of rubber or metal, which are popular for porches or sunrooms, and roofs made of wood shakes or shingles.
"Most of the time, people who choose wood shakes or shingles do so primarily for looks because this type of roof doesn't last as long as other types and is more expensive," said Kathy Weinberg of Bi-Rite Home Improvement in Youngstown.
Tile roofs are also common on residential properties, although more so in southern climates, since ice and snow wreak havoc on tile. Older homes might have slate roofs, but slate is not commonly used today.
Built-up and modified bitumen roofs, or roofs made of layers of waterproof material and installed in large sheets, are almost never used on residential properties and are common on commercial and industrial buildings, Brown said.
Sprayed polyurethane foam roofs, which are sprayed into place with a hose and waterproofed with silicone, are also used mostly on commercial and industrial buildings.
Although asphalt shingles are the most common type of roofing material used on the average home, not every asphalt shingle is created equally.
Weinberg said most shingles come with 30-, 40- or 50-year guarantees.
"Shingles that came with 20- to 25-year guarantees used to be common, but now 30 years is usually the lowest number you will find," Weinberg said.
The guarantee is based on the weight per pound of the shingle.
"This basically means that the thicker and heavier the shingle, the longer it is guaranteed and the more expensive it is," Weinberg said.
Let the roof breathe
Despite the type of shingle you choose, Weinberg said it is important to remember that roofs needs to breathe.
"Tiny holes in the soffet system, mushroom cap vents or ridge vents, which are the same colors as shingles and installed at the peek of the roof, are the most common ways to ensure that the roof will get enough air circulation," Weinberg said.
Without proper ventilation, roof materials will sweat and eventually rot, Weinberg explained.
If you need a new roof and the old shingles aren't curled or rotted, it is OK to install the new roof over top of the old one, but only in certain cases.
"This is OK if there is just one layer of old roof. If there are two layers, then you have to rip off both layers and start over with the new roof," Weinberg said.
And make sure to install roofing felt, a material that is designed to lay underneath shingles.
The steeper the pitch of the roof, the thicker the felt should be, Weinberg said.
"A thicker felt will provide extra cushion for when the roof has to be walked on. Roofs with steeper pitches need more protection because they are harder to walk on and easier to damage," she said.