Over the past week we’ve had a few mild days, and heavy winter rainfall has given way to lighter showers. The warm sun has popped out a few times. It won’t be long now until we will be enjoying the outdoors without the need of layers of winter apparel.
To most people, these seasonal changes are welcome. But changing temperatures and humidity can be hard on your roof. Winter may have left it’s mark on your home, and springtime in Vancouver can bring harsh conditions of its own, with heavy rains, gusts of high winds coming off the Pacific, chilly blasts from the Arctic, and occasionally even hail.
Spring is the perfect weather break, between two seasonal extremes, for getting your roof back tip top. So before you begin planting the gardens and break out the lawn furniture, here are some things you should look at.
Inspect the attic and check the ceilings
If the insulation in your antic in some areas is inadequate, condensation may have formed when your home’s warm interior air met the cold surface of the roof. The wet wood and insulation material can cause mould and mildew to develop. As the attic warms up, with the spring sunshine beating on the roof, this can provide an ideal environment for mould and mildew to spread rapidly, increasing the damage. Does it smell like mildew or mould up in the attic? Is there any wet wood, or insulation that feels damp to the touch?
Winter can be hard on your roof, and ice damage and storms can cause leaks. Do you see any evidence of dripping water in the attic, or water stains on the ceiling?
Do a perimeter check
Things can be damaged over winter by the snow and ice, wind and flying debris. Take a few minutes to complete a careful perimeter check. You’re looking at shingles, membrane or tiles, loose flashings, the chimney, gutters, downspouts and anything that may have become detached in a storm.
Start with the gutters
Before heading up to the roof, if you’re not used to being up on the roof, we recommend that you read Roof access and ladder safety first.
Even if you cleaned your roof carefully before winter, more leaves and environmental debris may have fallen on the roof over the winter months, filling valleys and clogging gutters. In the valleys joining one roof direction with another, make sure any buildup of leaves, branches and gunk is cleared.
With the spring showers ahead you’ll want to have your gutters working perfectly. Flush any leaves and twigs with a garden hose, and have someone check the downspouts to make sure the water is draining properly, away from the home’s foundation. Look for any leaky gutter seams as well as separation of the gutters from the roof edge.
Check the roof for ice damage
Snow melting at the peak of your roof may partially thaw and re-freeze several times on its way to the gutter. The water collects in any holes, seams and cracks. As it freezes again, it expands, and this can open up weak areas, causing leaks.
Check metal flashings. Ice forming under flashings can pop up nails or screws, break calking seals, and compromise the water protection flashings offer.
If ice has been trapped near the edge of the roof, or in the gutters and downspouts, there may be some damage as a result of “ice damming.” Ice dams are more likely to occur where the insulation has not done an adequate job, increasing the number of thawing and re-freezing cycles. Water and snow back up behind an ice dam, instead of draining from the roof. The water then takes the path of least resistance, under the roof, or sideways through flashings. This results in leaks into the home, and damage to walls, ceilings, the insulation and other areas.
Things to look for on shingle roofs
Have any of the shingles gone missing? As snow slides down the roof, it can take any loose shingles with it, or the wind can grab them.
Check for any cracked, buckled or curled shingles. Cracked or buckled shingles invite leaks. Curled shingles give the wind something to grab, and this makes them far more susceptible to blowing off during a storm.
Snow and ice, and the brittleness that comes with freezing, can take their toll on roofing materials. Look for granule loss. As older asphalt shingles deteriorate, the binders are unable to effectively hold onto the surface granules. Sometimes you’ll notice some show-through on the shingles. It’s also a good idea to look for “sand” in the gutters, loose granules washed down by the rain.
Asphalt shingle roofing is designed to last for up to 25 years, if you take good care of your roof. If you’ve lost any shingles, you finds some loose ones, or you see signs of curling or granule loss, you’ll want to have your roof inspected by a professional. Repairs made as soon as damage is detected can prevent costly repairs or a re-reroof job later.
Things to look for on torch on membrane roofs
If you have a membrane EPDM roof, you’ll want to inspect the seams, to see if the snow, ice and any loose branches have opened up any gaps. If the roof is flat, ponding and the weight of snow may have placed extraordinary stress on the roof material, pushing water under the seams or outer edges.
In some cases you may see wrinkles or bubbles in the material. A few small ones in the middle may not be problematic, but near the edges or seams you’ll want to have them checked by a torch on roofing specialist.
Check the flashings around chimneys, skylights and vents to make sure they are still fastened securely and any calking appears to be intact.
Things to look for on tile roofs
Any time you walk a tile roof you risk breaking it, so you may want to inspect if from a ladder, rather than standing on the tiles. Avoid stepping on the edges of overlapping tiles because the overlaps are the most fragile. If there are significant sections of the roof you are unable to inspect from a ladder, you will want to consider having a qualified roofing contractor look at it.
The first thing you’ll be looking for on a tile roof is cracked, broken or missing tiles. Tiles expand as they warm. If they were installed tightly on a cool day, a hot day could expand them enough to crack at the overlaps. Missing tiles are easy to spot. They may go missing due to breakage or fastener failure. Loose tiles are most commonly found along the ridges, hips or rakes. Loose tiles may be misaligned, raised on one end or displaced.
Concrete tile roofs can last 50 years. If your roof is missing tiles, has a few that are loose, or you see cracked or broken ones, you’ll want to have a professional repair made quickly.
Inspect all flashings
Here you’re looking for dents, dings to the edges, rust, loose fasteners, cracked or missing calking, every place where a metal flashing has been used. Common locations will include the metal surrounding chimneys and skylights, plumbing vents, as well as other areas of the roof the roofer may have felt required added reinforcement.
An hour or two invested in checking your roof each spring can help extend its life significantly. Spring is also the perfect time to have your annual roof inspection. If you have any questions, please leave them in the comments below, and we’d love to answer them.