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Keeping track of when your roof needs to be replaced isn’t usually top of mind for most people. You hardly ever look at it, let alone REALLY look at to analyze its condition. But you should. Waiting too long to replace a roof that should have been replaced long ago is not good. Small issues get worse over time, which ends up costing more when they’re finally addressed. Every 6 months is how often you should be checking your roof, looking for signs of damage. This way you’ll catch any issues before they get costly. And more importantly, your house will be safer.

Here are 12 signs your roof needs to be replaced.

1. Gutter Debris

As you can see when looking at roof shingles, they overlap one another. They’re designed this way on purpose to increase functionality. A strong glue (or sealant) is used to keep them steady. Over time, mostly due to weather friction and atmosphere changes, the sealant weakens. Eventually, this results in tile deterioration which you can tell by looking in the wind gutters that line your roof. If your gutters have lots of stuff in it (tile pieces, grainy material), this is a sign.

If you see many chipped tiles, missing tiles, or crooked tiles, this means the sealant is weakening. Don’t be alarmed by any little piece of asphalt shingle or asphalt gravel you see in the gutter. A small degree is normal. But if you find a lot of roof debris collecting, this is a cause for concern. The most responsible homeowners replace tiles and protective coating regularly as they see fit. 

Another thing to watch out for is an excessive amount of tree debris falling on your roof into the gutter. One thing you really don’t want is a tree actually touching your roof. Cut branches or cut down trees altogether if necessary. The daily pressure from trees that have grown over the roof and are making contact with it is bad. This weakens tile integrity much faster than normal.

When you’re checking the roof, look for tiles that are curled, distorted, deformed. Also, notice any tiles that have stripped of their protective coating. By the way, make sure you’re only checking your roof when the weather is good. Be safe.

2. Ridge Damage

Ridges are the place on your roof where two separate areas meet. For example, a raised point where two sections of tiles laid in different directions come together. Ridges (or at least one of the ridges, depending on the layout of your roof) is usually the highest point. These areas are particularly important to the roof’s structural integrity. Typically, if it comes to a point, the ridge will have a cap of some kind. This prevents water from getting in. Sometimes they’re used for ventilation purposes, as well.

More often than not, these sections of your roof are the first to show signs of wear. This means that they’re often the starting point for more damage around the roof to form. Bedding and mortar damage on the ridge almost always leads to damage elsewhere. If your roof is showing ridge damage, you need to thoroughly check the whole roof. It’s likely that you’ll find additional damage here and there. The sooner you get these things repaired, the less money and time you’ll be spending in the future.

3. Underlay Rott

When a roof is being constructed, the first thing that gets laid on the roof deck is called underlayment. It’s a water-resistant barrier made out of rubberized asphalt, asphalt-saturated felt, or non-bitumen synthetic material. It acts as a protection against bad weather. The tiles and underlay keep water out by working together. Standard roof patches can be used to repair a small, single tear in the underlay. But larger tears or ones in hard-to-reach places are more difficult to repair. Water leakage sometimes happens through these area.

To point out the obvious, it’s always better to catch a roof leak for the water starts getting indoors. Small leaks often go unnoticed, especially when looking at the roof from outside. But as you would expect, leaks usually start small and grow over time. Rotting underlay causes roof leaks more than anything else. When the underlay looses its integrity, the roof’s foundation weakens. This is the beginning of what would eventually become collapse (worst case scenario). You can’t just replace underlay. In order to replace it, tiles have to be removed. 

When you’re checking your roof, look for any parts where the underlay is exposed. Tiles that are warped and lifting off the surface, exposing the underlay, need to be taken care of.

4. Cracked Mortar

We briefly mentioned mortars in the section above. This is an adhesive made from a mixture of sand and cement. It’s used as the bedding for tiles, particularly during the laying of roof junctions and verges. It’s always a good idea to check the areas of the roof where mortar has been used. Basically the peak of any sloping area and all the roof’s outer edges. They don’t last as long as some of the other components that make up your roof. They have a tendency to degenerative and crack over time due to temperature change. If you can catch these cracks in their early stages, your roof will last much longer. If they go unnoticed for too long, they fall out in chunks, especially under high wind.

This is more common in older roofs. In newer homes, mortar is not always used anymore for tile bedding. Regardless, if you see cracks in the mortar or worse, it’s already falling out, time to take action.

5. Old Roof

Here’s where we tell you something you already know. The older your roof is, the more likely it’s going to need replacement. Roofs are made out of all kinds of different materials. They’re constructed using many different techniques and styles. But given time, they all need to be repaired and replaced. One of the things that play a role in roof longevity is the number of shingle layers. Some houses have a single layer while others have multiple. Believe it or not, the multi-layer roofs tend to age faster. If the roof has reached its twentieth birthday and it’s multi-layered, good chance replacement is due.

Roof-building techniques have gotten better over the years. So the newer your roof is, the less you have to worry. But that doesn’t mean that you should check anyway. Still, use the check every 6 months rule we mentioned at the beginning. No matter what, at the 15-year mark, this is when you should have a specialist look at it.

6. Leaky Attic

Water coming inside from the roof is not good. The most common place that leaks occur is from the attic. When you’re doing your biannual checkup, look at the attic-portion of the roof. Look for dark streaks. This means that water is penetrating the underlay and just about through the roof itself. On the inside, look for stains, not the ceiling or walls. These stains are usually circular. This means that water has already found its way through. The next stage is blistering and bubbling on the walls. This means the attic is letting water in.

Water leaks originating from the attic are typically chimney-related issues. The flashing of the chimney includes many seals and tiles. If these elements break, water gets in. Roofing that wasn’t installed very well also causes attic leaks.

7. Flash Damage

Roof flashing is roofing elements placed on areas where water runoff is expected to the greatest. It redirects water away from vulnerable seams. Flashing is made of a material that water cannot penetrate, like galvanized steel or aluminum. Roof areas the protrude, like a vent or a chimney, are also candidates for flashing. 

Sometimes flashing can get damaged because of what are usually placed underneath them: caulking. This material dries out due to oxidation. When the caulking becomes damage, the flashing usually becomes damaged as well. There are also ways that flashing can become loose. If this happens, water is almost sure to seep inside the home. Mildew, mold, and rotted wood often result from this. This type of damage is very bad and can cause fatal damage to your roof.

8. Sagging

Most roofs have one main ridge. Take a close look at the ridge on your roof and make sure it’s perfectly straight. If it isn’t, this is a sign of structural damage. Any sagging (sometimes called a saddleback) of the ridge could eventually lead to roof collapse. There are handful of things that are usually the cause of roof sagging. Heavy ice and snow, bad installation, the use of defective materials during installation, and water in large amounts (very heavy rainfall).

There are some things you can do to prevent sag. First and foremost, clear all the rainwater from the roof if there are spots where it collects. (This is yet another problem that needs fixing. Water shouldn’t remain in puddles on the roof.) When building your home, make sure quality materials are being used to construct the roof. The amount of weight your roof is capable of withstanding needs to be addressed and then designed accordingly.

9. Loose Shingles

Check for loose roof tiles. This needs to be part of your regular roof checkup. Get up there and gently step on the tiles. If there loose, you know it needs to be changed. The discovery of a couple loose tiles every 6 months isn’t something to be too concerned about. When there are a handful or more every time you check, then you’ve got a problem.

10. Unwelcome Light

On the days you check your roof, do one more thing before it gets too dark outside. While inside your home, go to the upper rooms that make contact with the roof. Turn off all the lights. Look closely at the ceiling and check for any light that may be coming through. Doing this at sunset is the best time. You may think is a strange thing to do, but it can help you fix a potentially huge problem before it gets bad. If you seem some light, you’ve got roof holes or cracks. Sometimes simple repair work can take of an issue like this, if it’s small. But other times this is a very bad sign of a neglected roof. It may need to be fully replaced.

11. Moss and Mold

When moss and mold grow on the roof of a home, it forces the tiles apart. This creates openings between tiles where water can get in. Also, the presence of moss and mildew speeds up the tile-rotting process which leads to more problems. When you check your roof, be sure to keep an eye out for that slimy stuff. The longer mold and moss are allowed to fester, soon fungi and bacteria will grow. Your roof is all but guaranteed water damage at this point. Sometimes roofs have to be replaced entirely because of too much mold.

12. Water Damage

Water damage can be sneaky in that it’s good at making you think it’s something else. For example, small mildew and watermarks on the roof or wall are often misinterpreted. You might think that they’re caused by rainwater that seeped in through the window. But in our experience, this is rarely the case. It is a mistake to take any watermark found indoors lightly. They all need to be investigated, no matter the size. A small watermark that goes untreated usually leads to something worse. More than likely, the water is coming in through the roof by way of a crack or hole.

If you see any evidence of water damage on the walls or ceiling, check the roof right away.