What to Look for in a Roof when Buying a Home

It’s tempting to ignore technical details like roofing when you’re house hunting. You’re probably so excited about that beautiful wraparound window and even more exquisite yard that missing tiles and cracked shingles seem comparatively unimportant, but even small trouble spots can cost a pretty penny to repair. There’s no reason to take on unnecessary expenses, particularly when breakage can play an important role in your price negotiations.

The Tiny Details that Count

The age of the roof and what materials were used to build it are key to their longevity. They help you to determine how close to the warranty period the roof is, so always ask to see the paperwork. Checking receipts could save you thousands of dollars. Asphalt shingles show signs of wear by shedding mineral granules into the gutters. They let you know if the coating’s protection has worn down, which in turn tells you how well the roof will wear in the next storm. If the shingles can be pulled apart with your hands, they’ve deteriorated beyond any hope of a simple mend. Asphalt only has a lifespan of 20 years, so if the roof is old and missing its coating, the shingles need to be entirely replaced. Wood and metal shingles have more longevity, but check for signs of corrosion and rotting.

Water, Water Everywhere

Leaks need immediate treatment. The longevity of different brands and materials varies enormously, so you actually need to physically inspect the roof. You can spot signs of neglect by looking for any missing, cracked, or curled tiles. Use a pair of binoculars from a neighbor’s yard to find any tiles that need replacement, and make sure flashing around skylights and chimneys is in good condition. If you spot anything untoward, hire a contractor to inspect the roof more thoroughly with the correct safety equipment.

If the roof needs to be entirely replaced, building codes demand that you strip the existing roof all the way down to the sheathing because doubling up on layers places too much strain on the rafters. The underlayment protects against moisture, so it needs to be checked for damage, especially in humid climates where it wears quickly. Some roofers don’t add any underlayment at all, which is no longer in keeping with building codes.

Ice barriers prevent water backup, so they need to be self-adhering and installed all the way to the edge. Most codes specify a full 24-inch extension of barrier from the outside of the wall.

Wood shingles and Shakes

Shakes are manufactured differently to shingles and have one or two mechanic splits to achieve a textured surface. Shingles are sawn instead and have tapers along the length. Neither shakes nor wooden shingles should be self-installed, so take special care when inspecting them, especially if they were installed 20 or more years ago. This is when their warranty period is likely to expire.

Wood roofing should last 40 years provided there are no wood boring insects or decay. An abnormal color and lack of sheen are both signs of decay or infestation. The darker the wood, the more advanced the corrosion. A bleached hue with fine black strands is a sign of fungus, which may mean the wood is rotting. Check the exposed ends for breakage, signs of softening, and condensation.

Buying a new home is stressful enough, so no new property owner needs to begin their first weeks with leakage and costly repairs. Make sure your move is filled with roses and rainbows instead of breakage and repairs. It’s much easier to check a roof than replace one.


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