Though your roof can stand strong for years against hard weathering, leaving a roof without regular inspections can allow unseen issues to turn into expensive repairs and replacements. In other words, performing regular inspections on your roof can save you from significant problems down the road and help you spot the warning signs you need a new roof.
Types of Roof Damage
If you can recognize what kind of damage has impacted your roof, you’ll be more likely to realize whether there’s an issue, and what kind of issue that might be. Here are the most common types of roof damage:
1. Water Damage
Water damage is a widespread type of roof damage, and it can be tricky to spot when you don’t know what it looks like.
Water damage occurs when water penetrates your roof’s waterproof barriers, seeping into your home and leading to wood rot and structural weaknesses. It can also occur when your roof doesn’t have proper drainage. Improper drainage can lead to water backups on your roof, pushing water back into the roof and making it easier for water to sneak inside.
Water damage can be caused by rain, snow and ice. You should inspect any water signs you notice to see if it’s new or old water damage — the older the damage, the more severe it can be.
2. Wind Damage
If you’re dealing with heavy storms, wind damage is a significant cause of severe damage. It’s typically easier to spot than water damage because wind is much more aggressive and prominent right after a storm.
What does wind damage look like on a roof? Wind can lift shingles, harm gutters and even cause branches to fall and create holes. Cracks, tears and missing shingles after a harsh storm are also potential signs of wind damage to roofs. Watch out for debris in your gutters and on your roof, as well — wind can throw debris into these spots and create water damage and openings for animals.
3. Hail Damage
Hail damage isn’t quite as common as water and wind damage, but it can have serious consequences for your roof. These small ice balls rain down on your home, potentially causing dents, tears and even holes in your roof. Hail might break older or cracked shingles and can scratch them, accelerating the rate at which your roof ages.
If you’re inspecting your roof for hail damage, it usually looks like small, round dents or numerous chips and scratches.
4. Structural Damage
Structural damage means the actual, physical roof structure has been compromised. This can be anything from cracks or holes in the roof to entire roof sections collapsing.
Any sagging or bending is often a sign of structural damage, although these are often harder for the average homeowner to spot. If you notice any signs of structural roof damage, contact a professional for an inspection immediately.
5. Age-Related Damage
Age-related roof damage usually ends up looking like the other damages mentioned above. As your roof ages, its components weaken and become damaged. While regular inspections and repairs help extend your roof’s life, eventually, it’ll need replacing.
If you start to notice your roof needing more frequent, expensive repairs and you’re constantly dealing with roof issues, it could be a sign your roof is old and needs replacing.
Signs of Roof Damage
Now that we’ve covered the different roof damage types you might encounter, you should understand what the signs of roof damage look like. If you can recognize the signs, you’ll be better prepared and can contact a professional for further repairs and inspections.
Some potential signs of roof damage you might encounter include:
- Leaks: If you notice musty smells, discoloration, paint bubbling or mold, these are signs of water damage. Leaks start small, but the water damage quickly accumulates until it’s too obvious to miss. If you see water dripping from the ceiling, follow the leak upwards until you can locate the source.
- Loose granules: Loose granules accumulating in your gutters or on the ground are potentially signs of shingle damage. The granules on shingles help with shingle strength, fire resistance, UV ray protection and appearance. They’re essential for a long-lasting roof, and too many loose granules accumulating around the roof is a sign you might need a roof replacement.
- Shingle damage: Shingles are exposed to all sorts of wear and tear over the years. They help protect your roof from wind, water and hail damage and are your home’s first line of defense. Once shingles begin to show signs of age and wear, you’ll need to replace them to ensure your roof stays strong and protected. Watch for curling, cracked or missing shingles and replace them as soon as possible.
- Vegetation: Too much vegetation and moss on your roof could be a sign of roof damage. You should get your roof washed regularly to prevent vegetation growth. As moss is allowed to spread, it begins to lift shingles and accumulate water. This can lead to water damage and premature wear on your roof if not taken care of. Too much vegetation can lead to extensive damage, and you might have to replace your roof.
- Discoloration: Discoloration or rot on your roof decking is a clear sign of roof damage. Roof decking comprises the wooden boards that support your roof system. If they’re exposed to water and begin to take on damage, it could seriously compromise the safety and structure of your roof. If you notice rot or discoloration, contact a professional.
How to Identify Roof Damage
Here’s a step-by-step roof inspection checklist you can go through to spot roof damage, whether immediately after a storm or during a yearly check. If you’re uncomfortable checking some parts of your roof on your own, you can get a professional roofing inspection to look over everything for you.
1. Check the Attic
Contrary to what you might think, you should always start with the attic when looking for roof damage. It’s easier to access than the roof exterior for many people, and you can examine the roof decking for water damage and holes. While in the attic, look for drips, discoloration, frosted nails and mold. Check for spots of sunlight — this indicates you have a hole in the roof. Go over every inch with a flashlight and note any unusual or musty smells you encounter.
2. Scan the Roof’s Exterior
After exploring your attic, scan the roof’s exterior from the ground. You can look for missing shingles, roof holes, water backups and collected debris. If it’s winter and you spot an ice dam, it could be a sign you have water damage.
Make sure all your roof components look undamaged, and check surrounding trees for missing branches. Ensure there’s no roof sagging or bending — if you see these, don’t get on the roof. Call a professional service immediately to address your roof’s structural issues.
3. Inspect the Gutters
Climb up a ladder and give your gutters a thorough inspection. If there are missing sections or the gutter is visibly bent or pulled loose, you need to get it fixed.
Clear any debris in the gutters since clogs can cause water backups and damage along the roof. Finally, make sure any water is traveling down the gutters and draining away from the house. If water starts flowing back against your home’s foundation, it can cause leaks, rot and structural damage.
4. Examine the Rooftop
If you’re comfortable doing so, you can climb onto your roof to inspect it more closely. Take note of any damaged, lifted or missing shingles. You should clear any debris you find and water for dents, scratches and holes caused by hail or debris. Inspect all the roof flashing to ensure the seals are still tight and preventing leaks.
How to Know if You Need a New Roof
How do you decide between roof replacement and repair if you see visible signs of roof damage? Your roof is essential for your home, and investing in a replacement is a significant task. You’ll want to get your roof inspected and maintained regularly to help it last as long as possible.
If you think you might need a new roof, here are some factors to consider:
Every roof has an expected life span. While some roofing materials last longer than others, a typical asphalt shingle roof lasts 20 to 30 years. If your roof is reaching the end of its life expectancy and you’re dealing with damage after an event like a storm, it’s time to invest in a new roof, so you can replace everything completely — fixing an old roof will likely be a waste of money, as you’ll have to get a replacement in the future anyway.
If you’re dealing with significant damage, it might be easier to replace the whole roof. Your roof damage might be so extensive you need a new roof. Some potential damages that may mean you need a new roof include:
- Missing granules: As mentioned above, lots of missing granules mean your roof probably needs replacing. If your shingles are missing too many granules, they won’t protect your roof correctly and could lead to further roof issues. Get them updated with a new roof to ensure you aren’t exposing your home to damage.
- Extensive shingle damage: Too many missing, cracked or damaged shingles is a sign you need a roof replacement. You’ll want a roof inspection to evaluate the condition of your roof in case you need a replacement.
- Leaks: Leaks and extensive mold or discoloration could signify you need a new roof. While some water problems can be taken care of with repairs, extensive water damage to your roof underlayment means you’re dealing with mold and structural problems. It’s best to get a new roof instead of trying to continually manage the water damage.
- Sagging: Sagging, holes or bending are clear signs you have structural issues and need a roof replacement. These are unsafe conditions for you to be living under, and you’ll want to hire a professional as soon as possible to prevent more damage to your home and mitigate safety issues.
Repair Frequency and Costs
You should evaluate how often you’re paying for roof repairs and compare those costs to the benefits of a new roof. A new roof won’t have the same frequent repair needs as an older, damaged roof, and you’ll enjoy having an updated look to your home.
Additionally, a new roof with modern materials and professional installation could save you money on your energy bills, as you can eliminate holes, poor insulation and other factors that make it hard to heat or cool your home properly. It might be worth investing in a new roof if you find yourself frequently paying for roof repairs and seeing higher energy bills.
How to Prevent Roof Damage
Regular maintenance and inspections are the best ways to prevent roof damage. Get your roof professionally inspected annually. Experts will quickly evaluate your roof and know exactly what steps you need to take to prevent damage and fix existing issues. You can enjoy your roof for longer and avoid worrying about the potential problems your roof might have.
You should also perform regular maintenance to ensure everything is as durable as possible. Along with annual professional inspections, here are some maintenance tasks you should perform:
- Get missing or damaged shingles replaced as soon as possible.
- Regularly check the gutters for debris and keep them clear.
- Trim back any tree limbs or bushes away from the house.
- Wash your roof at least once a year to prevent vegetation buildup.