Roof Inspection: Checklist and All You Need to Know

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Your roof is one of the most important — and expensive — parts of your home. It protects you from water leaks, heat, cold, snow buildup, and wind damage. Because of how important roofs are, most lenders and homeowners insurance companies require that your roof be in good condition for you to receive a mortgage or insurance policy. For those reasons, you should schedule a roof inspection when buying a home, or after severe wind or hail, or at any other time you suspect possible damage to your roof.

Can You Inspect Your Own Roof?

For mortgage and insurance inspection purposes, you will not be able to inspect your own roof. The lender or underwriter will need to see an inspection report from a certified and/or licensed roof inspector.

For other purposes, such as suspected damage after a hail storm, there are things you can do, and things you can’t. You can visually inspect for broken shingles and other signs of damage. That is, of course, depending on your ability and willingness to get up on a ladder and climb up on all areas of your roof. However, a roofing inspector has additional tools and experience to help spot smaller problems. For example, a thermal scan can detect a change in temperature that indicates a small roof leak that’s hard to spot with the naked eye. Many inspectors use drones for developing a comprehensive view of the roof's condition.

Should You Use a Roofing Company to Inspect Your Roof?

Roofing companies often have qualified inspectors on staff. The problem is they have an incentive to sell you on repairs or a new roof. This creates a conflict of interest that an independent inspector doesn’t have.

IMPORTANT NOTE: If you hire an inspector for roof inspection, the inspector is not in a position to opine on the insurability of the roof. They can provide you information on the current condition of the roof and if there is any noticeable damage, which is a significant benefit of the inspection.

How Often Should You Have Your Roof Inspected?

Independent experts typically recommend having your roof inspected at least once per year. If your roof is newer and you don’t suspect damage or other problems, this can usually be a do-it-yourself visual inspection if you feel comfortable. However, you’ll want to schedule a full inspection at least every few years and whenever you suspect something may be wrong.

Can a Roof Inspection Tell You How Long Your Roof Will Last?

Your roof inspection will give you a general idea of how long you can expect your roof to last. This will be based on the age of your roof, its current condition, and what it would take to fix any problems found. Of course, your roof’s exact life expectancy will depend on uncontrollable things like weather, so you won’t be able to get an exact timeline.

Roof Inspection Checklist: What Inspectors Are Looking For

Here are some of the general categories that an inspector will look for in a roof inspection.

Basic Information

The first step is getting basic information about your roof. This includes things like its age, who installed it, what type of construction it is, and whether its under warranty. The purpose of this is to help you document a potential insurance or warranty claim. It also helps the inspector know if your roof is wearing at the pace expected for a roof of that age and type.

Flashing, Coping, and Caulk

Flashing, coping, and caulk join sections of your roof together or with other surfaces such as chimneys. Flashing and coping are different types of covers. Caulk is a material that fills gaps.

The inspector looks for whether these items are loose or missing. They also check for rust and other signs of leaks.

Roof Surface

Your roof’s surface consists of the shingles and any seams connecting them. The inspector is looking for cracks, missing shingles, and loose shingles. The inspector also checks for signs of other problems such as dried out shingles and blisters or depressions in how the shingles are laid.

Drainage

Your gutters and any narrow areas in your roof should be free of obstructions. Water should be able to flow off of your roof without pooling. Even if the problem is off of your roof, such as a broken or clogged downspout, the problem becomes a roof problem when standing water backs up onto your roof.

Inside Your Home or Attic

The inspector will also go inside of your home or up in your attic. The purpose is to check for signs of water leaks such as a stained ceiling or attic insulation. The inspector may also check for thermal leaks such as small holes under your shingles that haven’t grown enough to allow water in yet.

Other Fixtures

If you have satellite dishes, TV antennas, rooftop air conditioners, chimneys, skylights, or other equipment on your roof, they should be properly secured and in good condition. If these items come loose in a storm, it could lead to serious roof damage.

Moss, Lichen, and Algae

Moss and lichen growing on top of your roof are not harmless. They can be signs of improper drainage or decay of the underlying surfaces. Even when your roof isn’t damaged to begin with, the growth of moss and lichen can eat into your roof.

Algae may not be as serious but should still be looked into. Small stains, such as from a period of heavy rain, are typically a cosmetic problem only. Larger growths or algae that doesn’t go away after extended periods of sun may be a sign of drainage or decay problems.

After an Inspection Found Roof Problems: Repair or Replace?

If a roof inspector finds problems with your roof, you have to decide whether to ignore the problem, repair it, or put on a new roof. The first thing to consider is that a roof should typically last 20 to 30 years depending on what kind it is even though weather conditions that come along with extreme cold or heat or rain or hurricanes can make the roofs of all kinds deteriorate faster. The longer your roof’s expected lifespan and the smaller the problem, the more likely it is that you’ll want to favor repairing it. For older roofs, you may want to replace the roof now or consider ignoring a smaller problem since you’ll be replacing the roof soon anyway.

When deciding to ignore or repair your roof, you may not be the only one that gets a say in the matter. If you have a mortgage or homeowners’ insurance, you may need to keep your roof at a minimum standard that’s more than what you’re personally comfortable with. Failing to maintain your roof up to that standard could be a default on your mortgage or lead to an insurance claim being denied.

Schedule a Roof Inspection

Are you buying or selling a home? Need to apply for a second mortgage or home equity loan? Had a recent storm or fallen tree and think your roof may have been damaged? Schedule a roof home inspection as soon as possible to make sure your home is protected.

WIN Home Inspection provides independent inspections to buyers, sellers, real estate professionals, and homeowners. Our trained professionals will provide a biased and comprehensive report covering every detail of your roof so that you can make an informed decision about any work you may need done. To get started, search for an inspector in your area now.