Only a few decades ago, it seemed every house in Seattle was either composite or shake. Now, there are dozens of different materials that can be used on a roof – and for numerous reasons – and countless manufacturers that have popped up to satisfy the market. With all these new roof material types and products, there are still some basics you can use on almost all roof material types to keep it in great shape, and in particular considering the typical weather we get in the Pacific Northwest.
Get your roof inspected every year
Many roofing companies offer free – or almost free – roof inspections to would-be customers. It makes sense to them because anyone with a roof concern is a probably customer. Roof inspections are relatively easy to do, and if an issue is found, the roofer is right there on the spot to offer a solution. If there is an issue with your roof, the roofer is highly motivated to find it.
The old adage a stitch in time saves nine is very apt when it comes to the roof on your house, especially in the Pacific Northwest. Finding an issue early, even if an inspection cost a little cash, can save you a bundle in roofing repairs a few years later, had the issue been ignored.
Small leaks are often worse than a big leak. With a big leak, you’re quietly eating your Corn Flakes in the morning when a load of water finds its way through your roof and into your kitchen. Often, such leaks can be repaired before they do too much damage, even though a big flood of water into your kitchen might feel dramatic and serious when it occurs. A small leak, on the other hand, can introduce a lot of moisture into your roof infrastructure over time, and wreck a big part of that, without a single drop of water finding its way to somewhere you might notice. That’s why roof inspections are a great idea. Low cost and high return makes the yearly Roof Inspection the most important thing you can do.
Clean and treat your roof every couple years
With real wood shake roofs, Mother Nature will do its damnedest to bring all those wood shakes ‘back to nature’. Wood is made, eventually, to decompose. Some wood types last longer than others, of course, but even cedar shakes won’t last forever if they are just left to the elements. So, even with yearly inspections to find actual problems when they have occurred or are about to occur, maintenance is the next great ingredient. Spray washing the right way can remove would-be deterioration due to moss, lichens and fauna like rodents and insects, not to mention birds looking for a cozy place to nest. After the cleaning – and the roof is absolutely dry – it can be treated with protectorant that will essentially waterproof each wood shake. That can also make it harder for moss and lichens to grip on the shake, or for either the flora or fauna from eating their way into the wood. This will make the shakes last longer, and reduce the chances of leaks developing. Considering the price of an entire roof replacement, cleaning and treating can save a lot of money.
The typical real wood shake roof can last two or three decades. That is, if you get those yearly inspections, and the treatments every few years. If you just leave it and ignore it, the life of the roof will likely be cut in half. On top of that (no pun intended) any damage that a neglected roof may cause in addition to itself can be added to the cost of owning a roof at all.
If you do decide to get your roof cleaned, be sure your provider is bonded and insured. If they are not, and someone slides off the slippery roof in the process, you can be sued later for compensation because it happened on your roof. This happens all the time, so make sure you don’t run up against the same problem.
Be aware of the laws relating to disturbing birds’ nests
Every state has its own laws about interfering with the good work of Mother Nature. In California, for example, you may not power wash the nests of swallows during particular times of the year. That’s because birds are likely to have young in their nests at that time. If birds have moved into your roof – and that has happened to me once – consider leaving the nest alone until the end of summer or, at least at a time when the nest will be empty.
The best time to work on your roof in the Seattle area is when the weather is at its driest. That’s because the work can be better done without the risk of rain getting into exposed areas while the work is in progress, and if you do power wash it, it will dry quickly, ready for the treatment right afterwards. If you power wash it in the middle of November, it might remain wet for weeks or even months, if the weather does not change enough to allow it to fully dry. For that time, the original protective coating will be long gone (from years of exposure as well as the power washing) and the new coating will not yet be in place. Do the power washing in August if possible.
Protect your property around the house before the cleaning or roof treatment starts
Power washing your roof is going to bring a lot of gunk down from your roof to everything around it. Bicycles, lawnmowers and toys will all get a shower from the roof. The moss and lichen debris is one thing, but the shake treatment might be toxic. Cover everything up before the job starts, or better still, move everything you care about into your garage for the duration.
Ponds, too, are vulnerable to anything synthetic you might use to treat your roof. Get professionals involved, ask them about all of that, and request that everything around your house is protected from any potentially bad side effects of the power washing.
More next week!