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The Importance of Roof Maintenance After Winter Storms

April 28, 2014

We have just experienced one of the most brutal winters in decades. Heavy snow and subzero temperatures have taken a toll on the roofs of our homes.

Finally, spring has arrived! Now is the time to inspect your home's roof and gutters to determine if repairs, replacement or just routine maintenance are needed. Have a professional roofing contractor examine your roof. However, if you are comfortable with heights, you can inspect and maintain the roof yourself. Here's how to do it.

Mark Paulson, senior home remodeling adviser with Katlia Construction of Park Ridge, says that in the Chicago area, almost all residential roofs are asphalt shingles installed over tar paper. He advises homeowners to begin their roof inspection by searching for loose, cracked or worn shingles.

Next, check the plumbing stack flashings to be sure they are properly sealed and flashed beneath the shingles. Look for cracks in rubber fittings and leaded boots around the stack base.

The chimney is a frequent source of roof leaks. Bar flashing on the back of the chimney should extend a minimum of 18 inches upslope and step flashing on the sides of the chimney should be overlapped by a minimum of 2 inches. Trim boards attached to the corners of a wooden chimney chase can pull apart over time and leave gaps where water could enter.

"Roof valleys can also be frequent sources of water leaks," Paulson said. "Leaves and other debris deteriorate and absorb water like a sponge. Use a broom to sweep roof valleys clean of debris. Check for leaks around the attic vents, attic fans, hot water vents and furnace vents. All roof penetrations should be tightly sealed and securely fastened beneath the roofing shingles."

Next, check and clean the gutters and downspouts. "This step is essential at this time of year because spring brings rain and heavy downpours. Sticks, leaves, mud and residue from shingles settle in the bottom of the gutters. Clogged gutters may allow rainwater to get under the lower placed shingles and damage underlying materials, causing leaks," Paulson said.

"Begin by scooping the debris out of the gutters using a gutter shovel that is available at most home improvement stores, and wear gloves to protect your hands. Start at one end of the house and work your way around until the entire gutter system has been cleared."

After all debris has been removed, use the water from your garden hose to flush the gutter and downspouts clean. "Make sure the water flows freely and check carefully for leaks, especially at the seams where gutters and downspouts connect," Paulson said.

After your inspection and maintenance procedures are complete, what if you determine your roof needs to be replaced?

Installing a new roof is best left to a professional. Get several estimates from local roofing companies and be certain the contractor is licensed, carries liability insurance, has workers' compensation insurance for their personnel, and verifiable references. Once you have chosen a contractor, the process begins with the removal of the old shingles.

The contractor will inspect the roof and wood decking to determine if any damage or deterioration has occurred. If so, the decking will also be replaced. The flashings around the chimney and the roof vents will be checked and replaced if needed.

In our area, ice and water shields should be installed 36 inches from the fascia boards and in all valleys. The shields help prevent any ice or water from getting under the shingles and into the home. Tar paper sheets are installed over the decking, new roof vents and new fittings (also known as "boots") are installed around the base of the plumbing and ventilation stacks, and finally the new shingles are installed.

The entire process typically takes two days but in some cases only one day is needed.

Paulson advises homeowners to choose their shingle colors wisely. Kyle Yeske, regional sales vice president with Alside, a wholesale building materials supply company with seven Illinois locations including Elk Grove Village and Elgin, agrees.

"Light color shingles have reflectant properties that help deflect the sun's rays in summer, thus lowering air conditioning bills. There are new energy-saving "super white" shingles available but they aren't particularly popular (because of the color)," Yeske said.

Shingle colors are a matter of personal preference, as are shingle styles. The architectural shingle has contrast and definition, looks good on any style home, and is only slightly more expensive than a traditional three-tab shingle. Shingles now have a longer life span.

"Algae-resistant granules are added during the manufacturing process, and improved seal strips securely bond the shingles together, increasing their wind and water resistance," Yeske said. "As of about three years ago, almost all shingle manufacturers offer a lifetime limited warranty for their shingles."

Coralie Cicala called Paulson when her Northwest suburban bungalow-style home was in desperate need of a new roof. It had three layers of deteriorating shingles and a serious water leak had developed in a rear bedroom.

"We decided to replace the roof and change the color of the shingles," Cicala said. "The original shingles were an awful shade of pinkish red. For the new roof, we had Mark's company install architectural shingles in a charcoal color."

With the new roof now completed, Cicala says her home has a much cleaner and more modern appearance.

How important is a roof's condition from a Realtor's perspective? Joe Hedrick, a veteran real estate agent with Century 21 Marino in Morton Grove, believes first impressions are very important when showing a home that is on the market.

"When I bring a client to a home for a viewing, the first thing they see is the home's exterior, and the roof is a large part of that first impression," Hedrick said. "After an offer has been accepted, a home inspector will make a careful evaluation of the home, including the roof. The evaluation results will affect the purchaser's offer if the existing roof is going to require an additional expense now or in the near future."

A new roof is a major selling point and will always be a highlight in the MLS listing's description of the house. "A new roof will typically increase the selling price because it is one less major expense for the prospective new homeowner," Hedrick said.

After having a new roof installed, it's not uncommon to have a few scratches or scrapes on the soffit and fascia below the roof. Consider having a painting contractor touch up or even change the color of the soffit, fascia, and shutters to match or contrast with the new roof.

Carmina Arroyo, owner of CertaPro Painters in Mount Prospect, says this can be easily accomplished with minimum preparation. Having the siding repainted is another option for freshening the exterior of the home.

Maintaining and inspecting your home's roof, gutters and downspouts are essential to the appearance, performance, and value of the home.

"Think of your roof as a big umbrella that covers your home," Paulson said. "It must be in tiptop condition to keep the house warm, dry and protected. Make a twice-yearly roof inspection an important part of your regular home maintenance routine."


Professional Shingle Cleaning Increases Roof Lifespan