Q20: Do shingles appear free from wear, being broken, curling, buckling or missing altogether?

You probably aren’t hauling a ladder with you so that you can get a closer view of the roof, but you can still make a good assessment from a ground view. The goal of your inspection is to determine if the roof is gong to keep you dry when the weather turns so that you can avoid expensive repairs. A roof is an extremely important consideration when you are looking to purchase a home, therefore before you consider a Purchase offer, consider the cost of total roof replacement in any proposal if you find some of the issues below.

There are many different types of roofing materials- asphalt shingles, wood shingles, tiles, metal roofing and slate. In this blog, we’re concentrating on asphalt shingles. As you’ve walked the perimeter of the house, have you noticed colored grit at the
downspout areas? If you have, that is a cause for concern as that material is what covers the surface of the roof shingle shielding it from the sun’s damaging ultraviolet rays – just like the sunscreen we should be using at the beach!

Look for any signs of rust around the vents and chimney. While not esthetically pleasing you should make note of rust stains because it could be the sign of a more serious issue. Most of these ”caps” are made of a are made from cheap metals which deteriorate and rust over time. The cap could also be the wrong size or shape that might indicate that there is improper chimney ventilation. If the rust is running down from the shingles from the chimney, it could be the flashing that is the culprit. This piece is also usually made of a cheaper metal and should be replaced. If the rust appears to be only on the shingles themselves, it could be that the metal nails used to secure the material are the culprit. In any of these cases, you would want to contact a fireplace or roofing expert to determine the source of the problem.

If you notice that the shingles are curling up, it is a sign of inadequate roof venting. In other words, the air on the inside of the attic is not being circulated out trapping moisture and heat there to affect the bottom side of the shingles. In this case, if a large portion of the roof has the curling shingles, the structure may need a new roof. If you notice only a few shingles, a roofing expert may recommend adding ventilation and replacing only the affected shingles. Either way, curled shingles mean that water and moisture and water can penetrate under the shingle and cause bigger issues. We recommend calling a roofing expert to determine the root cause and possible solutions.

If you notice that the shingles are buckling or warping, the cause is usually due to the movement of the plywood decking or the underlayment material. Again, this is a moisture issue that could lead to deterioration of the roof itself. Since there are many possible sources for this type of moisture within the attic area (including a damp basement venting into a humid attic), it is best to call a roofing expert for an assessment and remediation plan. If there are shingles missing altogether, ask the homeowner if they kept any of the originals for replacement purposes. Severe weather can pull shingles up at almost any time but the trick here is getting shingles to match the rest of the material if the roof has been on for a few years.

Q21: Is the existing roof the only/first layer? Is the existing roof less than 10 years old?

In some communities, building codes are written that allow a maximum of only 2 layers of asphalt roofing material. If it appears that any of the conditions in Q20 are present on a second roof, you definitely want to know what is going on. There are advantages and disadvantages to having one versus two layers of roofing material – the ability to shield the roof from ice dams and cost savings versus the ability to determine if there are signs of deterioration on the initial layer causing the second layer to have issues. The best thing you can do if you determine that this home is the one you want to call your castle, is make any purchase offer contingent upon a roofing expert’s inspection. You need to be able to determine the cost of repair, replacement and on occasion remediation of roof damage.

How long a roof lasts will depend on the type of roofing material you see. Asphalt/composite roofs can last up to 20 years depending on weather conditions and wood shake and fiber roofs can last 25-30 years. Once you know the age of the roof however you will have a clearer idea of how soon you may encounter the expense to protect what’s over your head.

Q22: If the shingles are wood or “shake,” do they appear free from mold, rot, damage or decay?

Most wood shingles or siding will last 25-30 years on a home. Over time moss, mold or mildew can start to grow on the siding especially if the structure is in a humid climate or if the siding material has not been coated every three to five years with a sealer. The process to clean the wood from these organisms is fairly simple and there are a number of different products that are effective.

The bigger concern is how much of it do you see? If it is only on a small area of the exterior, then it could be a job you could tackle in a weekend—and you might want to stop at a home improvement store to get an idea of the actual process and cost. However, if the area of concern is bigger than a few square feet it would be a good idea to make contact with a siding installer that deals in this type of siding material to determine what the process and cost could be before you propose a Purchase Offer.

If it appears the some of the wood exterior is decaying or rotting, it is possible that those pieces have reached the end of their use. If you see damage such as ends breaking, splitting or cracking, you should also check for softness when you touch them as well. In these cases, the pieces that are in poor condition should be replaced to avoid further problems. Wood shingles or roofing material can be damaged in a number of ways – falling branches, improper installation that creates buckling or cupping of the shakes and weather conditions. If you notice any of these issues, contact an installer to determine what to expect in the realm of correcting the issue.

Q23: Are the soffits and fascia free from signs of decay or stains?

Some of the things you need to look for when inspecting the soffits, fascia and gutter areas of the roofline are water damage which can take the form of signs of bubbling or peeling paint, buckling or warping which could lead to decay or rotting and stains.

First, let’s define the terms:

A Soffit is the underside of the overhanging eaves.

The fascia is a wooden board that covers the ends of the rafters on the roofline.

Decay or rotting is usually very easy to define – you’ve seen a rotting tree because it is exposed to the elements. In some cases when you look up at the soffit you may see areas that are the perfect picture of decay. However, if the roof was not properly installed (or re-installed when there was repair) and the fascia board did not continue on the angle of the roofline water can make its way back up under the singles and soak into the roof sheeting. There could be a dip or depression where the fascia meets the roof sheeting which would allow rainwater to sit on the shingles and even wick back underneath creating costly repairs. In thee cases, you may see only the beginning signs of damage which would include the paint peeling or bubbling, the wood buckling or warping and water staining.

In some cases, a drip edge (metal or plastic piece on the edge of the roof sheeting and part of gutter installation that serves to project the water into the gutter pipeline) may not have been installed or was installed incorrectly. This also could allow the water to seep up around the soffit or fascia causing areas that need attention on the underside of the eaves.

Also notice if there are light black/greyish streaks on the exterior of the gutters. This is an indication that the gutters may have been full and debris needs to be cleared out of the gutter pipes more often to allow the water to flow freely. Any back up of water that could stay on the soffit or fascia areas will lead to problems. If you decide to put a purchase offer on this home, make sure you speak with a Roofing/Gutter installer to discuss repair options as soon as they present and before the issue becomes a major problem.

Q24: Is there evidence of ventilation in the soffits and fascia?

In Q23, you looked at the soffits and fascia to ensure that there were no signs of decay or rotting. Another very important item to notice are if the soffits are vented. The reason that soffits should be vented is to increase the airflow into and through the attic. When soffits do not have ventilation perforations, the heat and moisture that are in the attic air becomes trapped and does one or both of the following: transfers back into the living are of the home raising your energy cooling costs or heats up the under layers of the roof leading to early deterioration. That moist air can promote the growth of mold and mildew in the attic and be the reasons that ice dams form on your roof. Without the proper ventilation in snowy climates, the pretty white stuff will melt off the peak of the roof and refreeze at the edge which can cause problems with soffits, gutters, water wicking under shingles, etc.

When the soffits are properly ventilated, air circulates throughout the attic continuously and the moist or hot air does not become trapped. Although ventilated soffits are a good starting point, secondary roof ridge vents at the peak areas of the roof maximize the circulation and airflow needed in the attic areas under your roof. Not all rooflines require the double venting system. Proper venting for the climate you are in should be discussed with a roofing contractor, but if both types of vents appear on the soffits and roof, there are great benefits.

Q25: Are chimneys straight and properly flashed with no evidence of damaged bricks or cracks?

If you’re looking at a home that has a brick chimney, you want to make sure that from the ground it doesn’t appear to be tipping. If it is, there are definite signs that you will need to have it repaired or “repointed. Repointing is a masonry maintenance term that refers to repairing the mortar between the bricks.

The chimney should also have a “cap.” This cap is usually a metal piece that keeps animals, rain and the winter weather elements (like snow, sleet and hail) out of the chimney. If the chimney is the vent for a fireplace, it is also helps to prevent any loose hot burning embers that fly upwards from the crackling logs from landing on the roof causing a fire. If the chimney on the house is a metal pipe, you will want to notice again if it is straight, if there is rust or if it appears in poor condition.

When looking at the chimney, there are a couple of things you can note even from ground level on a two-story home. Look that there are no bird’s nests or sticks and leaves woven together for the squirrel’s home construction plans. Look at the tree limbs close to the structure to determine that they are not overhanging into the chimney. Also, make not if the chimney itself rises at least 2 feet above where it exits the roof.

The chimney should have a flashing around it as well. Flashing can be made from a variety of materials – from aluminum to PVC – but its purpose is to create a watertight seal that prevents rain, snow and other elements from running down the chimney and leaking into the structure of your home. If you don’t notice a flashing around the chimney or it’s covered with tar or rust, you’ll want to make sure that one gets installed if you’ll be purchasing this home.

Though you might not notice much on the exterior of the roof, when you inspect the inside of the home, look for ceiling stains or repairs on the ceilings directly below where the chimney is located. If the ceilings have had to be repaired, there may have been leaks from the chimney that you should know about to ensure they were done properly and won’t reappear.