What Does a Good Roof Look Like?

I was asked recently by a home buyer what he should notice when looking at homes. He was interested in a 750k+ house over 5000 square feet and was anxious to get an offer on the house. In today’s market, we all know if it is a good buy it is already sold. He knew that but was concerned since the roof was over 20 years old he had lots of questions about roofs.

It’s difficult to explain what a homeowner should be looking for since most prospective buyers don’t walk roofs or climb into attics.

Certainly, if it appears from the ground that granules are missing from tiles it is in bad shape. At 20 years of age, it is getting to the end of its life according to most references but many roofs last much longer than that. If you can see repairs around chimneys or where rooflines meet the walls of the house it is a good indication of work needed ahead. Of course, if shingles are broken or missing you definitely have a repair coming up and at that age perhaps a replacement.

But what do inspectors look for?

An inspector is going to look in the attic for structural integrity. Are ridgeboards sound, are purlin braces correctly installed….are rafters in good shape? Are there signs of moisture or fire or improper installation? Have there been alterations that were not supposed to be made? Trusses for examples should never be drilled or notched. Does it have adequate ventilation?

On the roof an inspector will look for wear, granules missing, cracks, curling, popped nails, improperly installed shingles or flashing.

Flashing is where most leaks will occur.

Are flashings installed correctly? Are fasteners showing in the attic so you know they were long enough? Are drip edges installed correctly at the rakes and eaves?

How about those exhaust vents, chimneys and drain vents. Is the flashing installed correctly? It’s common that they are not.

Flashings, fasteners, structure, roof sheathing and the underlayment…the biggest problem is usually not age but installation.

Finally, is the appropriate material used for the pitch of the roof. I just found one the other day that was not. Shingles were used where a flat roof material like rolled roofing should have been used.  What’s the difference? Rolled and other membrane roofing is made and installed to be waterproof. Shingles and all tiles are water resistant. Shingles and tiles rely on the pitch to shed the water.

And lastly, we are in the upper 90’s and 100’s these days. Walking on roofs that are hot is usually not a good idea. You could very easily damage the roof. It may have been in good shape until you stepped on it wrong or in the wrong place.

A professional inspector will know when to walk a roof and when to use other methods like pole cameras and drones to get the information he needs. A professional inspector will be able to answer questions around all these areas after an inspection. My friend will of course get an inspector before his option period runs out. But now he knows what to ask about it.


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