Oregon averages over 40 inches of rain per year, but we receive over 50% of that volume during the three main winter months. Combine the Greater Portland area’s blustery weather with holidays, resolutions and everyday life, and you’ll start to see there’s no time to go outside and examine the condition of your roof until spring is here.
That time has finally come. Your roof has endured countless days of precipitation and even a few snow storms. Now that the major storm season is over, and Mother Nature has started working her magic on our flowers, what kind of damage did your roof endure?
Note: We DO NOT recommend climbing onto your roof for a DIY-inspection unless you are experienced and comfortable with heights and ladders.
The first and most obvious clue your roof needs help is if you experienced a leak this winter. Believe it or not, having a roof leak occur is your roof’s way of crying for help (and no, it’s not the roof that cried wolf). There are several culprits for a leak, but you can narrow them down to faulty workmanship, improper maintenance or defective materials.
Unfortunately, not every roof contractor has your best interest in mind when it comes to installing your roof. In fact, that great 50 year shingle warranty you have may have been voided the day your roof was completed. Even if your shingles were installed properly, you could still have a leak in your transitions, penetrations or valleys. These are more difficult to detect because they typically require physically getting on the roof or in the attic.
If your roof hasn’t been on a regular roof maintenance plan, every three or five years, then experiencing a leak is not outside the realm of possibilities. Performing regular roof maintenance ensures your transitions, penetrations and valleys are clear of debris, not cracked or worn out and your roof is not experiencing any moss, algae or fungus growth.
The last possibility that may cause a leak is defective materials. This means the fault is due to the materials manufacturer producing a poor functioning product line. We replace a handful of roofs every year due to a manufacture defect, but is not a common reason for a leak. Roof leaks can occur on any type of home. Whether you live in a single-family home or a million dollar home; they can prove costly and extremely inconvenient for your family. If you experienced a leak this past winter having a roofing professional inspect your home now should be a top priority before summer.
Another obvious clue that your roof is in need of an inspection is if you’ve found any shingles missing or laying in your yard. A missing shingle may not be accompanied by a leak, but it will soon if the problem is not taken care of; after all, it rains in the Greater Portland area until at least June. Like a roof leak, missing shingles can have several causes for their separation from the roofing surface, but faulty workmanship and improper maintenance are the most common reasons.
Missing shingles, associated with faulty workmanship, is typically due to top nailing shingles or missing the nailing zone. These issues can happen for a variety of reasons including workers being paid by the job not the hour, trying to use less than the budgeted field material (making the job more profitable) or simply not having the proper training. Every roofing company is going to tell you they have the best workers, but do they put their money where their mouth is? Additionally, every roof is going to look beautiful when it’s first put on, but what does it look five years from now? Answering this two questions can tell which roofing contractors are hitting or missing the mark.
We believe in performing regular roof maintenance every three to five years because its proven to make your roof look good, work right and last longer. If your roof was improperly installed, having regular roof maintenance can help your roof ‘weather the storm’ and prevent any major damage from occurring in the near future. You can’t go back in time and swap out roofing contractors, but you can make sure any weak points in the fortress are reinforced. Keeping your underlayment dry, which can be a real challenge when you have missing shingles, is the best way to prevent your roof from rotting away. Once your underlayment gets wet it’s only a matter or time before it cracks or wears out. Damaged underlayment will allow water inside your home causing mold or mildew to grow and unleash some serious health concerns for your loved ones.
A missing shingle is a roof leak just waiting to happen. These sleeping giants are especially susceptible during driving rain or heavy wind gusts. There is simply too many rainy months left this year to sit and wait until summer comes to fix this type of problem. Time is of the essence, especially if you wish to prevent further damage from occurring.
Skylights are a separate issue from the physical roofing material, but have the same end result as a cracked or missing shingle. A broken or cracked seals and improperly constructed flashings are the two common issues you will find with your skylights, but are often not detected until a leak has occurred.
Cracked or broken seals on a skylight are extremely common and highly susceptible to roof leaks. This issue is due to normal wear and tear occurring from the changes in weather patterns. Heat causes the seals to expand and cold causes the seals to contract. After years of these ever-changing weather patterns, the seals on the skylight will start to pull away from the corners indicating the seals are broken and need to be replaced. This problem can often be viewed from the inside of your home, but sometimes the issue be better detected from the roof top.
When your skylight is originally installed a metal flashing is put in place to allow water to roll off of the skylight, down the roof and into your gutters. If this flashing is installed incorrectly a leak can be sprung just as easily as a broken seal. A faulty flashing is difficult to detect unless you physically get on the roof. At first, the leak may appear to be caused by the seal, but when the seal is intact homeowners tend to get stumped. A full inspection of your skylights every three to five years will ensure your skylight’s seals and flashing are secured and water tight.
Moss or darkened shingles are the most common reason we receive phone calls for a free roof inspection, because it’s one of the most noticeable problem you can find. A green carpet staring you in the face every time to you pull up to your house is pretty embarrassing, but unfortunately very commonplace in the Greater Portland area. Composition roofs are a breeding ground for moss, you could potentially see moss growth in as little as three to five years on a brand new roof, while shake roofs tend to grow black algae, although moss growth is possible too, which is an unhealthy sign that your roof is living in an acidic environment.
Moss and algae grow in acidic environments that are caused by the trees in your surrounding area. The only way that we’ve been able to stop moss or algae growth, and prevent it from coming back for three to five years, is by using a sodium silicate based product that helps change the pH of your roof from acidic to neutral/slightly alkaline. When you allow moss and algae to routinely grow on your shingles, you give rain access to your fasteners often causing a roof leak.
The more growth you have on your roof, indicating how long you decided to wait before taking action, the more likely you’re going to need to clean your roof. Cleaning your roof is abrasive, some water pressure systems are more abrasive than others, and will cause your roof to lose half of its life if you wash it every three to five years. However, if you only have to clean the roof off once and then simply treat it every three to five years you will limit the damage and effectively prevent the visible black or green hue from occurring again.
Roof debris is one of the most overlooked problems a homeowner can have and is a direct reflection of the environment you live in. The more trees in your area, the more debris that’s going to fall on your roof. Roof debris can cause all sorts of problems including the problems we listed above. Debris can find its way on top of your shingles, but can cause significant damage when left between your keyways or in your valleys.
Having debris on your roof prevents rain from traveling its natural path, down the roof vertically, and causes it to travel horizontally, allowing it access to your fasteners. Also, if debris is left on your roof for a significant period of time it could cause the debris to decay, wet decaying debris is never a good thing, which will keep your shingles wet and eventually cause them to rot or decay too. This extremely common in your valleys and can cause what we call a debris dam. Again, water that can’t flow freely from the top of the roof to the bottom of the roof can only cause problems.
Keeping your roof top, keyways (if you own a shake roof) and valleys free and clean of debris is the best way to prevent horizontal water movement. To make sure your roof is clear of debris we recommend having your roof blown annually, especially if you’re in a medium or heavy debris area, to prevent buildup or decaying debris. We get asked all the time, “When’s the best time to have my roof blown off?” We typically say after the broad leafs fall which can occur anywhere between mid-December to mid-January. Another common question we get is, “What happens if you haven’t had your roof blown off yet, wouldn’t it just be easier to wait until summer?” The reality is we’re still in the rainy season and the purpose of having your roof blown off is so that the rain can travel free and clear across the roof’s surface. The last question we get is, “I still have a ton of debris in the trees shouldn’t I just wait until everything falls?” By now, the majority of the tree debris has fallen onto your roof and keeping the bulk of the debris off of your roof is the most important thing you can do. Decaying debris sitting in your keyways or valleys is not going to get any better by simply waiting for more debris to pile up. It’s also important to know that when we blow off your debris now we’re clearing the debris that’s built up for the entire year, not just from a few months. The less debris you have on your roof during the rainy season, the less likely you’re going to experience a leak, decaying shingles or shingle growth.
Gutter debris is another overlooked problem that can be a sign of larger issues. Gutter debris can be in the form of tree debris or it can be in the form of small rock-like granules when you have a composition roof. This problem is very similar to having roof debris, expect it backs up your gutters often causing your roof debris to be backed up even further, or cause water to come cascading over your gutters and onto the sides of your home and ground.
Tree debris in your gutters is the result of the debris being carried from your roof to your gutters. If you allow this debris to build up and decay you could find yourself with a case of Oregon Slime. When this sludge hardens up from the summer heat it becomes tough to scrap up and has a distinctly unpleasant smell to it. The best way to prevent tree debris from getting into your gutter is to not allow the tree debris to get that far. Having your roof routinely blown off can keep the tree debris off your roof and out of your gutters. However, sometimes a gutter clean is necessary and we highly recommend having this done at least once a year too.
If you find granules in your gutters your roof if trying to send you a warning sign that it’s too hot. Nine out of ten roofs age and fail prematurely in the US due to poor roof ventilation. Roof ventilation is rarely talked about, but can be a major factor in your energy costs and how long your roof lasts. The intake area must be equal to or exceed the exhaust area to ensure proper roof ventilation is occurring in your home. If you do find granules in your gutters, the only way to be certain that you roof has a ventilation issue is to have a professional inspect the roof top and attic.
It Just Makes Sense
Maybe your roof is in perfect condition. Maybe you’re debris free and all of your transitions, penetrations and valleys are in good working order. If you can’t remember the last time you had someone on your roof it just makes sense to have someone inspect it. No matter how minor these potential problems may sound above the key is to catch it before it becomes a major issue. What do you have to lose?
It happens all the time, we come out to someone’s home and we tell them, “I’m sorry; you can’t spend any money with us today.” This is truly music to both of our ears. We’re in the business of providing peace of mind and are ready to serve you when the time comes.