Every home is unique, but there are guidelines that apply to almost all buildings on the planet. In the Pacific Northwest, there are particular concerns, and most of them are related to the level of moisture we can expect for most of the year. In addition, because of the latitude of Seattle compared to, say, southern California, the angle of the sun’s rays means algae and other living things on the roof of your home may not always be killed off by lethal ultraviolet light. Last, because of how trees grow here in the Puget Sound area and beyond, many homes are in almost constant shade from the sun. Add all that up and you can see how a roof can become moist and remain so for a long time.
Get regular roof inspections
A roof inspection is not a big deal. It doesn’t take such a long time for a professional roofer to find problems if there are any. There is an external inspection, and there is perhaps the more important interior inspection. The latter is where – if you really do have a problem – the truth is found. Sometimes a small leak, invisible from external examination, can have created a significant problem under the roof, where a slow but consistent drip-drip of water is eating through the infrastructure over time. In fact, a large hole in the roof is often better than a small one. A small one can go unnoticed for years while the slow water does its damage, never reaching say a living room. A large leak, the moment a rainstorm comes, can be obvious somewhere in the house, triggering an immediate response – and a remedy – before water can do any real damage over time.
A roof inspection might actually be free, in many cases. Most roofers know that if they find a problem with your roof, they are the most likely vendor to be get the business, so they often offer the service for free, especially if you know there is a likelihood of a problem they can solve for you.
The company that installed your roof in the first place will appreciate the opportunity of serving you again, and is likely more acquainted with how the job was done in the first place. It doesn’t hurt to call them, and an inspection every about two years can save you a ton in the long term.
Get your roof cleaned every two years, or when it looks like it needs it
Most roofs these days are made with synthetic material. They might look very like real wood (cedar shakes, for example) but manufacturers have gotten extremely clever about how to make products to look like the real thing. If you hold one of these modern synthetic shakes in your hand, you’ll know immediately that it’s not a natural product, but when viewed in situ on a roof, you could not tell. But even with synthetic products, moss and algae can settle onto it, allowing its own biosphere to develop, and other critters to move in and take advantage. Cleaning your roof every so often will prevent such a biosphere from being created, and making it unattractive, for example, for birds to move in and call your roof their home.
As long as you do the cleaning regularly, it’s not a big job, and will likely cost less, but if you wait until there is damage done and water is coming in, you now have a repair job and a cleaning to do. So, regular cleaning is the way to go.
Fix roof problems before they grow into nightmares
I think it’s accurate to say, if you keep on to of minor issues on your roof, you can avoid the cost of big repairs later. A stitch in time saves nine, as they say, and nowhere is it more appropriate than in roof construction. Often, a small problem can do a lot of damage, but dealt with in good time, it might cost nothing. In fact, many roofing companies will fix small issues for free if they were the ones who installed the roof in the first place.
Do a smell test in the attic or wherever under the roof is
If moisture is finding its way into your attic, you may not notice it visually, but such a leakage will quickly produce a damp smell, obvious to someone who knows how to recognize it.
An attic must be both well-ventilated and insulated. It sounds like a contradiction, but the insulation you need most is the one between the attic itself and the rooms underneath it. That way, your central heating system is not also heating your attic unnecessarily. Your attic should be cool in the winter. It might get warm in the summer, but that’s where good ventilation comes in. A professional roofer will help you determine a good ventilation of your attic. A soft flow of exterior air is usually all that’s required, and will make a big difference.
If moist air is trapped in the attic, you are almost certain to get mold. Keep it ventilated. An attic with poor insulation will absorb heat in winter from the living space below it. Then when it snows, your house will be the first one on the street to lose its snow. That’s because your central heating system is also heating your roof, raising the temperature of it by several degrees, causing it to melt quicker. That’s a great eyeball test of how well your attic is ventilated.
More next week!