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If you haven’t checked the condition of the roof of your house for a while - or ever - you’re not alone. Very few householders do, for understandable reasons. It’s not the easiest area to reach. And when something isn’t in plain sight, it is easy to forget about it. But that doesn’t mean it should be ignored. Catching and rectifying even small areas of damage can prevent thousands of pounds worth of repair work later.
The easiest way to do it is to climb a ladder and have a look. Remember not to lean the ladder against glazing or guttering. Make sure the ground is level and have someone stabilise the bottom of the ladder to make it more secure.
If for any reason you can’t or don’t want go up a ladder, then you can get a fairly good idea using a pair of binoculars from ground level, or from a well positioned neighbour’s window (with permission!).
Your job is only to check as best you can. Unless you have professional qualifications or a huge amount of experience, you should leave the actual repairs to a professional. So, what should you be looking for? Here are the key checks.
The first and easiest thing to do is take a quick look around your top floor ceilings while inside your house. Any damp patches may be a result of a compromised roof. Also check the underside of your roof in your attic if you have one. It can be harder to spot leaks in this environment but damp patches there are good warnings that something is wrong.
Sagging or loose gutters are quite easy to spot from the ground and need re-fixing. But to see if there’s anything suspicious inside your gutters, you need to get up your ladder to inspect. If you see unusual amounts of grit in there it’s bad news. This is often a sign that asphalt roof tiles are losing their protective granules and the roof may be nearing the end of its natural life. For more information please have a look at our roofing guide.
Look for streaks of moss or mould coming down your outside walls from the roof. These are a sure sign that your gutters are blocked or damaged and need attention. Left alone they can lead to penetrating damp.
These are the flat wooden or metal boards that often sit under the edge of roofs and eaves. Not all buildings have these, but if yours does they need checking. Fascias can be seen from ground level, while soffits are often fitted behind gutters and are better inspected from a ladder. Look for obvious rot and staining which can suggest roof damage. Soffits often have vents to the attic, which need to be kept unblocked to avoid condensation inside.
Scan for missing tiles, which are one of the primary causes of water damage in the home. A single missing tile is bad enough but it also makes it easier for the wind to dislodge further tiles too, so things can rapidly get worse. The good news is they are easy to spot from a ladder or with binoculars. Keep an eye out for cracked or slipped tiles too - water only needs the smallest entrance point to create terrible damage. It’s best to get these fixed as soon as possible.
Moss or lichen on roof tiles probably doesn’t need removing - in fact the most common methods of removing it can cause more damage than the moss itself.
Flashing is a vital part of a roof’s structure. Made of flexible waterproof material, such as lead, it seals the joints between solid elements. It is used in roof valleys, for example, around chimneys and skylights, and along the join between roof and wall. Look for any that have come loose or buckled, or started to corrode, and have it replaced or repaired.
If you can see your chimney, have a good look for any crumbling or fallen bricks. These need replacing. The danger is that the flue might become blocked, which can have serious implications for gas or log fire users.
These are often easier to inspect than pitched roofs, but are also often ignored. Much of the same advice also applies to flat roofs. If you have a good view, watch out for any sagging or excessive pooling, which should be easy to spot.
If you manage to check all these things, you’ll more than likely avoid the worst consequences of roof failure. However, if on inspection you think there is any damage that might cause problems and you don’t feel confident in repairing it yourself, it’s always best to call in the professionals.
As the days shorten and the weather worsens, it’s tempting to wrap up and stay indoors. But now is exactly the time to step out to do those essential DIY chores that’ll protect your home through the months to come.
It’s worth checking these roofs for any signs of damage that could cause leaks. There are plenty of products available to ‘quick fix’ leaks and stop any immediate damage, this will give you some time to plan any more permanent repairs without the water damage getting any worse.