We have all heard stories about someone who ignored the check engine light in their car. The engine ran out of oil, locked up, and had to be replaced. All it needed was some oil, a little maintenance, and the engine can go for 150,000 miles or longer. Instead, they got stuck with buying a new engine long before they should have.
Unfortunately, our homes don’t come with a check roof light. Most of us ignore our roofs until water starts coming into the house. At this point, the proverbial engine is smoking! We wonder why our 30-year roof only lasts 15 years. The reality is, like our cars, our roofs just need a little maintenance and they can last as long as 50 years! (GAF roofs post-2008 have 50-year warranties when installed by factory-certified installers).
So what’s the catch? How do you maintain the roof? How much money do we have to spend every year to avoid spending thousands of dollars on unnecessary repairs or tens of thousands on a new roof?
Shingles themselves don’t require maintenance, but every roof has exposed fasteners from ridge shingles, attic vents, pipe jacks, metal flashings, etc. 90% of leaks stem from one of these exposed nails backing out of the wood and opening a hole in an otherwise perfect roof. More often times than not, these leaks aren’t discovered until they have also rotted the decking beneath the shingles, requiring extensive repairs for a problem that could have been easily prevented.
An easy preventive maintenance solution you can employ is to check for these exposed or receding nails every five years. If they have backed out of the vent or flashing, replace them with a roofing screw. A roofing screw works just like a regular screw, except it has a little rubber gasket at the top to create a seal. You can pick up a small box of these at Home Depot or Lowe’s for about $15. It is important not to just try hitting the nail back in or replacing the nail - the plywood has already allowed the nail to back out once... the same hole won’t hold a new nail without backing out again.
Once you have replaced any receding nails with roofing screws, it’s then time to get out your caulk gun. With some roofing sealant and a caulk gun ($20 total at your local hardware store), you can quickly seal all of the fasteners on the entire roof. Anywhere you see a nail, put a small dollop of caulk on it; It’s that simple. This helps prevent rust and subsequently water intrusion. So, for less than $50 and a couple of hours of your time every five years, you can make sure your roof actually lasts thirty to fifty years! For another $12, you can even spray paint the vents and protrusions to give that roof a stylish new appearance.
So when do you need to consult with a professional? If a nail has backed out of a shingle, then the shingle needs to be replaced. If you see tree damage, missing shingles, feel a soft spot in the decking, or see damage on your vents/pipe jacks, then it’s probably worth it to consult with a professional (or if ladders or heights just aren’t your thing!). However, for all you DIYers out there, don’t be intimidated by your roof. You can do it!
As always, stay safe out there!