Winter Home Improvement Checklist: Roof Repairs
With Winter swiftly approaching there are a number of tasks which one can perform that will prevent the home from sustaining damage from inclement weather and, at the same time, minimize the negative impact that water can have on one’s home.
Roof repair and inspection are at the top of the list. Don’t wait until it starts to rain or for the first snowfall to attempt this one. Regardless of the type of roof cover that exists, it’s important to have a roof inspection to ensure that the roof is free and clear of debris. Debris can range from leaves, pine needles, and twigs and branches to mold and fungus growth. This condition will not only likely result in damage to the roof, but will seriously impede its ability to properly shed water resulting in a leak.
Extreme caution should be taken when working up on the roof. For most, the roof is unfamiliar territory. It’s often steep slope and uneven surface have resulted in many a broken bone for unsuspecting homeowners. When considering a trip on the roof one should wear non-skid rubber-soled shoes or boots. Also, it’s best to work on the roof when it is dry.
Start by removing any large objects on the roof by hand. Then, remove what remains with a thorough sweeping. Power blowers are also very useful when attempting this task. A power washing is the best bet for wood shake roofs and some composition roofs that may be plagued by mildew or fungus. Work from the top down when sweeping or power blowing the roof. When power washing, start at the lowest part of the roof and work backwards to the highest point. The spray should be directed downward to avoid water damage by not forcing water up between the layers of roofing. Working from the bottom up will also minimize the amount of traffic on a wet surface.
Once the roof has been cleaned, it’s an excellent opportunity to have professional roofing contractors make an inspection of it to insure that the residential or commercial roofing is in tip-top shape and ready to protect your home through another winter.
A clean roof is only part of what is required for proper water shed. The next step it to remove all of the debris in the gutters that surround the home. If they aren’t full of debris now, you can be sure that they will be once you’ve cleaned up the roof. While a good sweeping with a whisk broom is all that is typically required here, some gutters we have seen were so filled with debris that a small hand trowel was required to shovel out the layers of built-up debris. A putty knife and a wire brush are excellent tools to perform this task.
After the majority of the debris has been removed, the gutters should be rinsed with the garden hose and a spray nozzle. If a power washer was used to clean the roof it would work equally as well on the gutters. Downspouts should also be flushed out from top to bottom.
One of the best ways to do this is by attaching a spray nozzle to the end of the garden hose and running it down the length of the downspout. With some unusually configured downspouts this may be impossible in which case a small plumbers snakes works very nicely in dislodging debris that can then be flushed out with water.
If the home is surrounded by large trees consider installing screening or a similar device which will keep leaves and other debris out of the gutters and downspouts. However, even the screens will need to be clean periodically.
Don’t stop there! If the downspout terminates in a flower bed near the house, it shouldn’t. Water that is shed off of the roof and is carried by the gutters and downspouts should not be discharged into a flow bed near the homes foundation. This will likely cause the house to move and will result in cracks above window and doors and may even make some doors hard to open or close. In addition, water discharged from the downspouts could travel under the house creating an extremely damp environment which could result in a fowl musty smell and worse yet fungus damaged framing.
At least, pre-cast splash blocks constructed of concrete or fiberglass should me placed at the base of each downspout. These will only be useful if the soil which surrounds the home is sloped away (1/4″ per foot minimum) from the house. This will not only cause the splash-blocks to shed properly, but will direct water that may otherwise collect around the foundation away from it.
For homes with hilly or unusual terrain, splash blocks may not be enough in which case a more sophisticated means of drainage should be employed. Among these is a below-surface drainage pipe which starts at the shoe of the downspout and terminates at the gutter thereby discharging water into the sanity sewer system of other public water recovery system. Another version of this is a drainage pipe which contains perforations and is embedded in crushed rock. This kind of acts as a leach line dispersing the water over a vast area. This alternative is especially appropriate for rural conditions where no public system exists.
Finally, if water is still a problem after employing some of these techniques, then we suggest that a landscape architect or soils engineer be consulted to determine what can be done to keep the water around your home an ally instead of an enemy.