A Home Owner’s Guide to Inspecting Your Roof

To ensure that their roof system is completely waterproof, a roof inspection should be part of every home owner’s spring maintenance schedule. And, this year, a record-breaking snowfall dropped over 50 cm one February day, so Ottawa homeowners are well advised to check in case the sheer weight of the snow caused structural damage.

Here are some tips that will help you perform a visual inspection to identify problems and determine if you need the services of a professional roofing company.

The Exterior Components of Your Roof System

A great place to start is making sure the melting snow and runoff flows freely off your roof and away from your home instead of seeping in or collecting at the foundation. Your gutters and downspouts perform the simple function of taking water away from the roof to a location far from the foundation. Improper drainage can cause problems like foundation flooding, soil erosion, water in the basement or leaks in the attic crawl space.

To avoid a dangerous climb and the risk of falling off the roof use binoculars to survey the roof. Identify damaged shingles, soffits, fascia and flashing along with any roof penetrations. If the roof is metal, check for corrosion.

Make sure downspouts drain away from your home’s foundation and check the downspout supports. If necessary, add extensions to carry water at least 3 to 4 feet away.

Nature can leave more garbage in spring than in fall, so gutter cleaning is a high priority. Clear all debris from eaves troughs and downspouts or install leaf guards. Check for leaks or water stains, especially under eaves and near gutter downspouts. Water stains can mean that your gutters are not containing the roof runoff and they should be repaired or replaced.

If you have a masonry chimney, check the joints between bricks or stones for signs of water infiltration. Also, look for efflorescence which indicates groundwater is “wicking” into the masonry and it could need replacement.

The Attic or Crawlspace

Ventilation is a key factor in optimizing the lifespan of a roof. In most cases, there is no requirement for mechanical or electrical fans because the air flows naturally when vents are placed at the base of the roof (at the eaves or in the soffits) and near the top of the roof (the ridge). Warm air leaves through the top and cool air exits through the bottom.

Inadequate ventilation can cause serious interior problems such as attic condensation, wood rot, mold, mildew and rusting metal. These problems can affect the integrity of the roof and of the house. Worse, it may lead to health problems for family members in the home.

One of the biggest roof problems related to improper attic ventilation is an “ice dam” which can form when snow melts near the ridgelines of warm roofs. As the water runs down to the edge, it freezes. Eventually, an ice dam or ridge forms allowing pooled water to seep under the shingles, through the decking and into the house.

It is equally important to have a properly insulated attic to stabilize the temperature of your home. You want to keep the living space comfortable for your family, however, the ideal temperature of the attic/roof area is as near to the outside temperature as possible to prevent unnecessary condensation.

For your interior inspection, check the attic and roof deck for any structural deformations. Look for evidence of moisture, mold and damaged woodwork. Examine walls and ceilings for water stains or cracks. Any of these could be symptoms of problems with the unseen elements of the roof like the water/ice barrier or the underlayment.

After completing your inspection, review the list of issues you found and decide if you can perform remediation tasks on your own or if you require the skills, equipment and experience of qualified, professional roofing technicians.