Routine roof maintenance prevents little problems from turning into big ones. It extends the lifespan of your roof and gives you peace of mind that your home is properly covered. You have the HVAC system inspected yearly, the lawn sprayed and fertilized, and the septic pumped. Now’s a good time to learn to inspect your roof, keep it in top condition, and stay safe in the process.
On this page
- Your guide to roof maintenance
- DIY roof maintenance checklist
- Practice roof maintenance safety measures
- Contact a professional for your roof inspection
Your guide to roof maintenance
Most of the year, your roof is out-of-sight-out-of-mind, but you need to check it regularly to see how it’s doing. If you don’t, something small could turn into a big problem. If you’re unsure what to look out for or how to care for your roof, use this DIY checklist for roof maintenance.
If you aren’t confident DIYing your roof maintenance, check out our roof inspection cost guide.
DIY roof maintenance checklist
Start in the attic
A thorough inspection of your roof begins on the underside, in the attic. The ideal time to do this is during heavy rain. If your roof is leaking, it’s best to catch it in the act. But, if rain isn’t in the forecast, look for stains that may indicate water leakage. Also, look for signs of moisture, like matted insulation or mold. Finally, give it the sniff test. An attic should smell dry and dusty, never musty.
Also, it’s easy for insulation to block the airflow through the soffit vents. So while in the attic, check all the vents to ensure they’re not blocked.
Pro tip: Install baffles above the soffit vents to channel the air from the exterior, protect the vents from being blocked by insulation, and keep insulation from coming in contact with the roof deck.
Remove debris from the roof
Leaves, twigs, fruit, and even whirlybirds from a nearby maple tree may collect on your roof. But you don’t want it composting up there. Natural matter traps moisture that can lead to mold and algae growth on shingles. Rain washes it into the gutters, where it clogs the downspouts, resulting in water flowing over the sides and possibly behind the gutters. Use a long-handled broom or leaf blower to remove debris from the roof.
Clean out the gutters
The gutters on your home channel water off the roof, through the downspouts, and into the ground. It’s important to keep your gutters clear of debris since clogged gutters can’t perform the way they’re supposed to. Make it a habit to clean leaves, twigs, and any other organic matter out of the gutters regularly, especially in the fall of the year.
While you’re at it, ask yourself if you’ve noticed water dripping from the seams after rain. If so, take the time now to caulk those seams. If you’re unsure, run water through the gutters using a garden hose. Also, look for signs of peeling paint, cracked caulking, holes, rot, or other evidence that water is running behind the gutters.
Pro tip: If you have a lot of trees, make gutter cleaning easier by installing gutter guards. They’re designed to allow rainwater through but not leaves, twigs, or other debris.
Trim nearby trees
Heavy tree branches over a house jeopardize more than the roof. If they fall in a storm, their weight can cause structural damage to your home. Even the tips of branches rubbing on the roof can remove the shingle granules, exposing them to harmful UV rays. Be sure to trim your tree branches as much as necessary so they never touch the roof or the gutters.
If you’ve never run a chainsaw or feel intimidated by tree trimming, check out our tree pruning cost guide before hiring a professional near you.
Check the ventilation system
Part of a roof inspection includes attic ventilation. If you have fans or turbines, ensure they’re working correctly and apply lubrication if necessary. Also, check to ensure that static vents aren’t blocked by debris. Inadequate ventilation in the attic can lead to moisture build-up at any time of year and ice dams in the winter.
Inspect and clean the roof covering
Routine maintenance and inspection are pretty standard for all types of coverings and roofing systems. But each has a different list of things that indicate a possible roof repair or replacement in your future. Also, not all shingles, tiles, and metals are created equal. So, before cleaning your roofing material, always check the manufacturer’s instructions. Improper maintenance, cleaning, or care can void any warranties you have. Here are a few specifics for the most popular roof covering materials.
Asphalt shingles or wood
When inspecting a shingle roof, you’ll first look for missing shingles. Also, look at their condition. Curled, blistered, lifted, cracked, loose, or broken shingles must be replaced. Granule loss exposes shingles to UV rays that will damage the shingles and lead to a roof leak.
To clean a shingle roof:
- If you have moss or algae on the roof, remove it gently with a soft brush.
- Spray with a commercial asphalt shingle cleaner or a solution of half water and half chlorine bleach using a garden hose, not a pressure washer.
- After 15-20 minutes, rinse with clean water.
- If your shingles have streaking caused by algae growth, install copper strips at the roof’s peak. The copper molecules will wash down the roof and prevent further streaking.
When inspecting a metal roof, look for dings, dents, or even holes. Loose fasteners and rust or corrosion are other causes of concern. Consider calling a roofing company for a professional consultation if you find any of these unsightly damages.
Most metal roofs are easily cleaned with soapy water and a soft-bristle brush. Never walk on a wet metal roof; only clean what you can reach. Wet metal is very slippery. Also, choose an overcast day for this task to avoid having soap dry before you can rinse it off.
Inspect your tile roof for loose, missing, cracked, or broken tiles. To clean a tile or slate roof, use a soft brush and a solution of mild detergent in water or a commercial cleaning product that inhibits mold and algae growth.
Inspect all the other elements
Other roof elements to check include the following:
- Flashing: Flashing is strips of sheet metal used to waterproof the roof where two sections meet. It’s typically installed in the valley of the roof and around chimneys, skylights, and vents. From a safe vantage point, look for rust, dents, gaps, or missing fasteners.
- Soffit and fascia: Check the face and underside of the eaves of your home for water damage that comes from misdirected water.
- Skylights: Look for signs of water leaking around your skylights.
Pro tip: Creosote is a sticky tar-like substance that builds up on the lining of a chimney used for wood burning. It is highly flammable and must be removed regularly to avoid a chimney fire. If you burn wood, it’s essential to have your chimney cleaned and inspected every year by a certified chimney sweep.
Practice roof maintenance safety measures
You may be confident you can DIY a roof inspection, but let’s be safe. Here are a few precautions to follow. After all, the cost of falling off a roof would far exceed the cost of hiring a roofing contractor to do it for you.
- Never ascend your roof if you feel insecure in any way. Stay firmly on solid ground if you’re afraid of heights, prone to dizzy spells, or are unsteady on your feet.
- If you do climb on the roof, wear a safety harness.
- Always perform a roof inspection on a dry, sunny day. No matter what type of roof covering you have, it will be slippery if wet.
- Wear shoes with flat, non-slip soles. Even a short heel can get caught on the rung of a ladder.
- Perform a quick safety check of your ladder before climbing up. And, always set it on solid, level ground.
- Have a spotter nearby. If you don’t have a buddy, keep your phone in your pocket.
If you hire a roofer to perform your annual inspection but have reason to check something out between visits, here are a few ways to inspect a roof without climbing onto it.
- Use binoculars. Whether on a ladder or safely on the ground, binoculars can help you see the entire roof from afar.
- Use a drone. Let technology help you and do what many home inspectors do now, use a drone to inspect your roof. Drones can reach hard-to-see places, especially on a multi-story home.
Contact a professional for your roof inspection
Performing your own roof inspection and cleaning is pretty easy if you’re willing to climb to new heights. If not, contact a professional. A roofing contractor can give you roof maintenance tips for your specific home and let you know if a new roof is needed.