Inspecting Your Roof

Inspecting the roof is an important part of preventative maintenance on your home that will save you a substantial amount of money, time and hassle in the coming years.  Finding normal wear and tear issues before they become problems, and identifying minor problems before they become major repair problems is the purpose for regular inspections.

In this roof guide we will cover all the important topics related to inspecting the roof of your home to look for warning signs of problems.

When to Inspect Your Home

Roofing experts suggest at least an annual inspection of your home, though many encourage twice a year inspections, once in the spring and a second in the fall.

We favor a minimum of 2 inspections per year, spring and fall, accompanied by “as needed” inspections.  Here is a short list of times you should inspect your roof other than during regularly scheduled inspections.

* When high winds have passed through: Wind leads to roofing material damage more than anything else.  If you’ve had conditions with wind gusts in excess of +/- 30 miles per hour, it is a good idea to check for wind damage in the form of shingles, tiles or shakes blown off.  Inspecting your roof after high winds is especially important if you have trees near your home and you’ve notices downed branches and large twigs which can pierce roofing material and cause leaks.

*When you’ve had a hail storm.  Most hail that is the size of a marble or smaller will not damage roofing material.  Larger hail may loosen shingles or even break tiles.

*You believe lightning may have struck your home.  Lighting can damage roofs or chimneys quite easily.  If a chimney is struck by lightning, in addition to a damaged chimney you might find damaged flashing around the chimney which can allow rainwater to run unchecked onto the roof deck or into your home.

What to Look for During a Roof Inspection

The first few items in this roofing guide list are general issues.  The remainder are issues that apply to specific types of roofing material.

* Missing Material: This is a dead giveaway that you’ve got a problem, right?  Wind, falling debris and improper installation are the biggest causes of missing material.  When you’ve got material missing, it requires immediate attention!

* Flashing and Boots: Where roofing material meets exterior walls you will find flashing.  Where chimneys, furnace vents or sewer vents protrude through the roof you will find flashing or a rubber boot.  Problems with flashing or boots are common roof problems and they will lead to leaks.  Step flashing should be tight to the wall or chimney and it should be uniformally spaced, sticking up above the level of the roofing material a uniform distance.  If anything looks amiss, it may be the beginning of a problem.  If you find caulk or tar on flashing it likely means that a previous leak occurred at that location.  The only way to prevent leaks with damaged flashing or pipe boots is to replace them with properly installed items.

*Ventilation: It is vitally important that your attic be properly ventilated.  Heat and moisture buildup in the attic will ruin roof decking and roofing material.  If your home does not have gable vents for the attic, soffit vents and ridge vents, you should have a roofer give you recommendations for getting your attic properly ventilated.

*Asphalt Shingles:  With this common roofing material, look for bare spots where the ceramic granules have washed away (you’ll find many of them in the gutters!), cupped, cracked or brittle shingles.  These are signs it is time to replace them.

*Wood Shingles or Shakes: Inspect these materials for cracks, nails that have popped out, loose fitting pieces, dry or wet rot, or warpage.  If 25-33% of the wood shakes or shingles have significant signs of wear, it is time to consider replacing the roof.

*Clay or Concrete Tiles, or Slate Roofs: Look for cracked, chipped, broken or loose tiles.  Because these roofs are brittle, inspecting them from the ground if possible, with a pair of binoculars, may be the best route to take.

*Metal Roofing: Signs of problems with metal roofing include open seams, corrosion or bare metal.  These 50 to 100-year roofs need maintenance but rarely need to be replaced.


With roofing, as with many other household maintenance issues, an ounce of prevention is worth at least a pound of cure.  Inspecting the roof on a scheduled and “as needed” basis is the key to stopping trouble before it starts. If you should find a problem is good to know a few quick fixes will help till you can get a pro over to do the work.


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