The roof on a house is the first line of defense homeowners have against the elements. A damaged roof will experience leaks, which can lead to a number of problems beyond the obvious water pouring through the ceiling. Rotting wood, cracked and peeling paint, mold and electrical shorts are just a handful of the potential disasters that could lie ahead. Keeping up with a roof and making sure it stays in good condition can be a chore. To keep it in pristine condition, it is important to know how to maintain a roof, the signs of damage and the various types of roofing available:
Fiberglass-based asphalt shingles are probably the most common in use today. Although durable, extensive exposure to heat, cold and moisture can take a toll. Signs that indicate repair may be in order include cracked shingles, a loss of granules on the shingles themselves, granules piling up in gutters and shingles with curling edges. The average life expectancy is somewhere between 15 to 30 years for this type of roof. More often than not, repairs usually call for an entire roof replacement.
Cedar shingle or shake roofs are most often made from split Western red cedar logs. You can expect a good 40 years out of this type of roof, and replacing individual shakes or sections due to individual shingle damage is fairly simple and inexpensive.
Limestone, sandstone, slate, fired clay and ceramic tile roofs are less common than asphalt shingle roofs, but tend to last longer generally the lifetime of the house. Heat and sun can leave them dry, and they will crack easily when stepped on, resulting in water seepage. However, repairing them can be a relatively easy job: If only one or two tiles are broken or cracked, that's all that needs to be replaced.
Metal roofs of today are nothing like the old-style "tin roofs," as they were usually called, that were commonly found on farmhouses of the early 20th century. Laid directly over spaced beams, they did allow for the beloved sound of rain patter, but provided next to nothing in terms of insulation and tended to rust quickly. Modern metal roofs are light weight and durable, resistant to fire, wind and hail, and come in a variety of attractive colors. They are expensive (about three times that of an asphalt shingle roof) but can last as long as 100 years or more with little or no maintenance.
A sod or dirt roof tends to be a rarity in the United States, although interest in green technology has spawned somewhat of a comeback. They are more complicated to install, but they are the least expensive of just about any type of roof in existence. Composed of sod overlaid on multiple layers of birch bark, they tend to last about 30 years.
A few rules
Regardless of what kind of roof you have, here are a few things to keep in mind:
• Buildups of leaves and water can add extra weight to a structure, causing significant damage or even collapse.
• Working on or near a roof line can be dangerous. If you suspect roof damage, check it out from the ground with a pair of binoculars.
• Clogged gutters and damaged flashing only spell trouble. Make sure they're always kept in perfect condition.
• When the time comes to have a roof repaired, avoid potential disaster. An inexperienced do-it-yourselfer can end up with broken bones or even worse from unexpected falls. An experienced team of bonded and licensed professionals can handle the job quickly and efficiently, with no danger to the homeowner.