There is a lot that can be done to prolong the life of your asphalt shingle roof. Anything from cleaning out your gutters to installing a custom ventilation system will help in prolonging both the integrity and aesthetics of your roof. In this article we will discuss both the general maintenance and simple tips and tricks to keep your shingles looking their best. After all, at the end of the day we all want our shingles to be looking better than two time block party olympics champion Roger’s across the street. With this article as a guide, we will make that a reality and you will be proud of those pristine shingles for as long as possible. So, let’s get started.
Nearly all maintenance should be conducted by a roofing professional. A lot of what I am discussing in this article is not a “how to” but a “why to”. I want you to know what needs to be done and why. With this information you can effectively communicate with your roofing professional on what you need done. With that said, here are some things your roofer will do for you:
Remove any debris laying on the roof,
Inspect the watertightness of vent pipes,
Clean out the gutters,
Remove any black streaking or moss,
Remove ice dams
When I say debris I mean anything laying directly on your shingles. Things such as leaves, sticks and branches, and telephone or cable lines. All of these have the potential to hold moisture on the shingles. This puts unnecessary wear on the shingle and can lead to moss growth in cooler climates. There should never be any kind of debris left on your shingles for an extended length of time.
Debris in the form of leaves, sticks, and branches pose an even greater threat to your roof. As the tree debris decays it acidifies the roof. Over time the acidity becomes great enough to eat away at metal present in flashing and valleys. Depending on the structure of your roof, your valley may be a hotspot for rainwater. If the integrity of your metal valley is compromised, your valley turns into a hotspot for leaks. Most valleys are shingled, but do check to see if yours is metal. You should be able to tell from the ground.
Another trouble spot on the roof will be areas behind skylights and chimneys. These areas are prone to building up tree debris and holding water. Some chimneys may have what’s called a cricket (see photo to the right). Crickets will help in moving water out from behind the chimney and off the roof. Being aware of your roof’s trouble spots such as valleys, chimneys, and skylights will give you a better idea of your roof’s needs.
Ventilation pipes require a fair amount of maintenance. If your vent pipes are sealed with a rubber collar you can expect them to need replaced every 10 to 12 years. Over time the sun dries out the rubber collar and causes it to become brittle. The rubber cracks and provides a pathway for water to enter the home. It takes a seasoned roofing professional no more than a few minutes to replace the collar and save you from a leak before it even happens. If your vent pipes are sealed using a boot then the level of maintenance required may change depending on the type of boot and brand. The manufacturer should be able to tell you more details on the maintenance of their boot and expected life span.
Whether it’s a rubber collar or a boot, vent pipes are typically an area with exposed nails. On installation the nails are sealed over with a silicone caulk to protect them from rust. Given time the silicone caulk wears away and the nails will rust. Water will find its way through the rusted nail and potentially cause a leak. That is why your roofing professional will recaulk any exposed nails usually around the same time they replace the rubber collar.
While cleaning your gutters is a pretty straight forward chore, the reason we do it is crucial to maintaining your roof. When the gutter becomes clogged with leaves, granules, and that pair of socks you’ve been looking for, water pours over the side or back on to the roof. Water makes its way under the shingles which can result in numerous problems. If the water is trapped under the shingle for too long it can cause decay or rot of the shingle and roof decking. The water may also cause damage by finding its way into the home from beneath the shingles. If the temperature outside is cold enough the water trapped under the shingles may even freeze and upon expansion push the shingles up. This loosens the shingles from the nails securing them and can result in blow offs. Keeping your gutters clog free will help keep your roof looking spic and span and, most importantly, best on the block.
Black Streaking & Moss
Black streaking is not much of an issue in the midwest but very present on the east coast. Black
streaking is caused by an algae that feeds off the limestone present in your shingles. The pesky algae will be most prominent in the most shaded portion of your roof, typically the north side. Moss favors the same conditions as the algae and both can be treated with similar techniques. To remove moss and algae you can purchase brand name solutions such as Spray & Forget or hire professional roof cleaners. You can also use your own solution of one part laundry bleach and three parts water with a bit of trisodium phosphate. Before you or a professional cleans the roof, rinse down all surrounding plant life and then tarp over it. After the roof has been cleaned you will want to rinse all surrounding plant life once again. Some brands might not require any rinsing at all and some professionals may do all this for you, just make sure it gets done.
If left untreated, moss and algae can decay shingles and even cause structural damage to the roof decking. Once it has been treated there are two measures you can choose from to prevent regrowth. The cheaper of the two would be installing tabs of copper under the shingles closest to the ridge. When it rains, trace amounts of copper will run down the roof, killing any algae or moss present on the shingles. The more expensive of the two is installing algae resistant shingles. These shingles have copper granules which discourage algae growth. They are only a few dollars more expensive than your standard asphalt shingles, so, if you need a new roof, why not kill two birds with one stone? Keeping those shingles clean of moss and algae will prolong that aesthetic value and life of your roof.
Ice dams can create some serious problems for you and your roof. But first, what is an ice dam? Ice dams occur when the snow at the center of the roof melts and then freezes at the edges. As more snow melts the water is blocked by the ice formed at the edges. The water is then pushed up and under the shingles where it can either enter the home or freeze under the shingles. We discussed previously how water freezing under shingles can greatly damage the roof.
If you already have an ice dam then the best thing you can do is call a professional roofer to remove it. There are even some companies that focus solely on ice dam removal. If you would like to prevent an ice dam there are three things you can do. The first being removing the snow at the edges of your roof. Second, you can have a roofer install heated wire that runs along the edge of the roof in a zig-zag like pattern. This will warm up any ice formations at the edges, preventing ice dams. The third and more permanent solution would be having proper ventilation. Ice damming is a result of the attic temperature being greater than the outside temperature. With proper attic ventilation you can discourage the formation of ice dams. Attic ventilation plays a large role in prolonging the life of your roof. If you haven’t already, I recommend you read an article I previously wrote on this topic called Why Is Attic Ventilation Important.
Tips & Tricks
You do not need to check your roof every time you pull in the driveway or walk out of the front door. But a glance here and there for debris, algae, moss, or loose shingles will do you some good. The National Roofing Contractors Association recommends a self check at least twice a year. How inclusive that self check is is up to you. Whether it is a walk around your property or a ladder and some ropes, whatever you are most comfortable with. Just remember being on the roof itself is for the professionals. Not only do you risk hurting yourself, you also risk damaging your shingles.
Walking on shingles with hard sole footwear is a big no no. Each shingle is coated in granules that provide a layer of protection from the sun. Without these granules the shingles will buckle, become brittle, and crack.
There are many ways to prolong the life of your roof such as removing debris, maintaining vent pipes, cleaning the gutters, removing/preventing algae and moss growth, and removing/preventing ice dams. You should be able to tell when the majority of these things need done by a quick glance here and there, but doing a self check twice a year will help you put everything into perspective. And remember, being on the roof is only for the professionals. Prolonging the life and aesthetic of your roof will give you the edge you need to compete with overwhelmingly impressive Roger from across the street at social gatherings. Thanks for reading, please feel free to ask questions in the comments section below and if you found this blog posting informative there is a button for Facebook sharing above the comments.