By Pete Alfano
Homeowners in Texas know what the long, hot, and dry summers can do to their houses’ foundations. Cracks and shifts can result in thousands of dollars in repairs. But how often do homeowners look up and consider the condition of that other essential structure — the roof? A damaged, neglected, and aging roof can also put a serious dent in your finances.
A new roof can last 20 years or more, but it is not maintenance-free. The blistering hot summers in Texas can cause shingles to shrink or crack. Spring and summer storms, which often feature hail and strong winds, can prematurely damage a roof. And those ice storms and occasional snow events during winter also take a toll. One consolation is that any roof damaged beyond repair by Mother Nature is covered by a homeowner’s policy that will pay for a new roof after the deductible is paid.
What isn’t covered is a roof that is simply old, has mold and mildew buildup, has been damaged by animals like mice and squirrels, or has generally been neglected. And according to roofing experts, a new roof will cost a homeowner from $5,000 to $12,000 or more, depending on the size of the house and materials used.
If you’re buying a house that isn’t new, don’t rely on a home inspector’s report. Call a roofing company and ask for an inspection. It’s also prudent to have periodic inspections to uncover any small issues that may become major problems if ignored.
For example, everyone enjoys having mature trees to provide shade during the summer, but tree limbs overhanging the house are an accident waiting to happen. Those limbs offer easy access to the roof and attic for animals. And a tree limb can break off and land on your roof in a storm, causing considerable damage. Even the leaves from an overhanging tree limb can lead to moisture buildup when they fall on a roof.
Get the gutters cleaned at least annually and more if needed. This allows rain to flow freely in the gutters to the downspouts. Blocked gutters cause water to pool, warping the roof decking, which is usually made of wood, that provides the base for the shingles. For moss and mold buildup, get a professional to treat the roof with a solution that can be hosed off. However, experts caution against power-washing a roof because it may loosen the granules on the shingles and shorten the roof’s lifespan.
Make sure the flashing that is usually found around the chimney and vent pipes has not been bent or in any other way damaged, which would allow rain to seep into the exposed areas. That may lead to leaks in the attic or the ceiling, which should be avoided. Also, notice where the steamy, humid air that builds up when someone takes a shower or bath goes when the exhaust fan is running. In older homes, bathroom fans usually vent into the attic or crawl spaces, which increases the chances for mold and mildew buildup, thus causing roof damage from the inside out. Have a roofing company extend the venting to outside the house.
There is not much we can do when a Texas ice storm hits, but when the temperature moderates and the ice begins to melt, make sure the runoff isn’t blocked by ice in the gutters or downspouts.
As you can see, there is a lot you can do to get the maximum number of years from your roof. And it’s always good advice to hire roofing specialists rather than risking injury from inspecting and doing the work yourself.