Up on the House-Top

A roof is a system of your home which is designed to last a long time, if you take proper care of it. Areas which require periodic attention include flashing, drainage waste vent stacks, shingles and gutters. To be sure everything is working as it should, you should have a professional roofer examine these areas every three years. Let’s examine each area to see what to watch for.

Types of RoofingFLASHING:

Flashing is metal, plastic or rubber pieces which protect your roof wherever there is a join – between roof and chimney, between dormers and roof or in valleys where two different roof slopes meet. These pieces ensure that no water infiltrates those areas. Usually, metal and plastic flashing will last as long as your roof does and will not need replacing until replacing your roof.


These vents are the white pipes which protrude from your roof. They are designed to allow air to help your waste water flow without impediment. The vents are very durable, but the special flashing around them, called a “boot,” is not. Boots are typically made of rubber and extend from a seal around the base of the vent and under several rows of shingles. Sun and weather take a toll on these boots, and they typically will fail after about 5 years. If a boot fails, you will get water under your shingles, and may have roof damage or damage to your ceilings inside your home. If you have a roofer examine the boots every three years, he will be able to replace any faulty one before it causes a problem.


Shingles, typically made from asphalt, slate, wood, metal or plastic, overlap and are designed to allow water to freely flow off your roof and into the rain gutters. Asphalt shingles, the most commonly used in America, will last between 15 and 20 years. As they weather and age, they will become brittle and begin to crack. That process signals you that it is time to replace the roof. Again, if you have a roofer examine the roof periodically, he will discover when the shingles are too brittle to function well and will need to be replaced.


The rain gutters are the rain water evacuation system for your roof. Always keep them free-flowing – free of debris, ice and snow. You may also consider inserting some sort of leaf guard to assist in keeping them clear. Several products are on the market to help avoid debris clogging your gutters:

MESH: A mesh gutter guard attaches to your roof’s shingles and covers the gutter to prevent debris from entering. This guard has holes to allow rain to flow into the gutter. Small holes are better than large ones in this type of gutter cover.

BOTTLE BRUSH: A bottle brush gutter guard is covered with bristles which resemble a round, nylon hair brush. The bristles fill the gutter to prevent debris, but water filters through them and drains to the downspout.

REVERSE CURVE: This gutter guard bows upward to deflect debris, but has a small slit to direct water into the gutter.

FOAM: A foam gutter guard fits into the gutter and blocks the debris from entering.

NYLON: Nylon gutter guards also insert into the gutters, but do not attach to the shingles.

In addition to preventing clogged gutters, you may need to do a few other tasks to keep your rainwater draining happily. While vinyl gutters never need painted, aluminum ones will need an occasional coat of paint. All other metals must be painted with rust resistant paint every 4 to 6 years. After every winter, do a visual survey of your gutters to assure that snow and ice have not caused any damage or detachment from your home. Also check your downspouts for clogs and install drainage hoses to direct water away from your foundation.


There are tell-tale signs that your roof needs replacing in the near future. First, do you have any missing shingles? Anywhere shingles have broken off or blown away is a potential entry-point for water damage. Also look for rusty or even missing flashing around your chimney and in the valleys between roof planes. Damaged flashing will also allow water infiltration. Inside, look up! If you see discolored drywall on your ceiling, cracked or peeling paint, or peeling wallpaper, those are signs water is getting into your home. Don’t delay calling a roofer if you see any of these signs. Water damage will significantly increase your roof replacement costs.


Sooner or later, your roof will need to be replaced. Depending on the condition of the roof deck (the wood under the shingles), and the type of new roofing you choose, your cost for replacement may range from $6000 up to $20,000. Most people do not have this large amount in reserve, and if unprepared, have to use a credit card or home equity to finance a new roof. But because it is an inevitable expense, why not set up a roof fund savings account now, and little by little, make deposits over time, toward that future cost? A small bit of preparation now can protect your finances in the future!

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