Many inspectors say the roof is the most important component of a house. If the roof needs repair, not much else matters. Roofs take the brunt of the storm water dumped on them. Their job is to send the moisture off the roof and channel it to the nearest drainage point. After that, the roof doesn’t care. There are separate blogs on drainage and ventilation .
Inspecting roofs evolves as an inspector gains experience. I started inspecting homes last millennium walking roofs. It changed to binoculars and a ladder, then to binoculars. Now, I walk a roof if I can access it through a door. Otherwise, I have my FAA Part 107 certificate to fly my DJI Mavic 2 Pro drone to look at the roof and the top of the chimney.
Nearly all roofs in Michigan have asphalt shingles. They have a fiberglass backing, asphalt laid on top, then covered with colorful aggregate. They are laminated to extend their life. They are called “architectural style” and have various life spans. I put a 40 year roof on my house in 2008, looks great. Remember the old 3-tab shingles? They are like life before the internet.
Roof styles vary, the most common are gable and hip. Gable roofs shed storm water properly and allow for upper level floors. Hip roofs are stronger structurally, shed storm water properly, but limit upper floor space. Other styles include shed, low-sloped, gambrel and others inconsequential to residential roofs.
Low-sloped roofs cannot support asphalt shingles because the pitch is too low and the water stays too long. Common coverings for this style is asphalt roll roofing or EPDM membrane. EPDM roofs are sometimes called rubber roofs. I have one on my house and it looks great.
Roof flashings appear at roof openings: chimneys, siding, vent pipes, vent fans, dormers, etc. Metal or vinyl flashings are used at these locations and need proper installation. Most roof repairs involve flashings. The shingles don’t leak, the flashings leak. I see poor flashings on 1 out of 4 roofs.
Ohmigosh I need a new roof. People talk about roof warranties. There are two types: installer and manufacturer. The installer warranty covers the labor and lasts 1-3 years. A manufacturer’s warranty covers the material. The roofing contractor must be licensed by the manufacturer, then a manufacturer’s rep reviews the installation and certifies the warranty. These warranties start at 10 years.
The best time to get a roof replacement estimate is the winter. The contractors are lining up the year’s work. Have them come in May. Ask for an estimate in summer. You get a price that does one of two things: makes you go away or makes the contractor rich.
Take care of your roof! Do not let leaves and branches pile up. This will hold moisture and damage the roof shingles. I use my leaf blower to keep the roofs clean. Inspect it once per quarter. If you see something that concerns you contact a licensed roofing contractor for further evaluation.