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How Do I maximize MY Roof Life If I Can’t Afford A New One?

This past fall, I had the blessed opportunity and ability to purchase my forever home – a quaint 1970’s traditional ranch style brick home. However, this provided me with the necessity to buy all new kitchen appliances, and a couple of days later, I was forcibly given the opportunity to purchase a new water heater to be installed when the original one suddenly died. As all homeowners can probably relate, there’s been other unexpected expenses and repairs I’ve encountered in my new home. But I, like many homeowners, am not prepared at this time to incur the cost of a new roof on my home.  

Which brings me to the crux of the issue: 

Can I afford a new roof now, and if not, what can I do to prolong the life of the one I have?

The most significant and vital protective ‘system’ for the proper function of a home is the roof. Upon considering buying my future home, I had the shingled roof inspected.
LISTEN UP ALL YOU FUTURE HOME BUYERS!

We looked closely at the general condition of the shingles and areas of flashing, such as where the brick chimney connects to the roof or the exhaust pipes. During the professional appraisal process, I requested that the attic be inspected specifically to investigate any potential issues where the vent pipes for the plumbing, bathroom vents, and stove hood vents cut through the roof. A prime source of leaks and damage occurs where there are penetrations through the roof, such as these. 

Often new homeowners have no way of knowing what the age of the roof system is. Fortunately, in the shed, I found several bundles of Atlas Pinnacle Pristine shingles in the same color as my roof with the date stamp of 05/19/2008. Since Atlas Pinnacle Pristine shingles are popular and do not sit for very long in supplier stockyards, this date stamp tells me with great certainty that my roof was likely installed sometime in the Summer or Fall of 2008. This puts my roof at approximately 12 years old.
 
Without removing shingles (not recommended) to know if the roof was installed using correct methods or components such as starter shingles, ice & water shield; it does appear as though my roof is in reasonably great condition with plenty of life left. For a new homeowner such as myself, that is AWESOME news!
 
So until I can afford the cost of a new full roofing system,

There are very practical steps that you and I, as homeowners, can take to prolong the life of our roofs.

These suggestions are helpful regardless of what type of roof you have on your home. You don’t have to be a roofing expert or a weekend warrior DIY’er. Let’s discuss what some of those practical steps are. 

I think it is important to say that if you do not feel comfortable on a ladder, walking on your roof or if your roof is particularly steep – PLEASE by all means ask someone for their assistance. Whether this means calling a relative, neighbor, your local handyman, your landscaper, or even a roofing repairman – please enlist assistance as opposed to risking your safety or neglecting your roof. For most of these services, there should be minimal expenses associated if you must pay someone to do this for you.

Be sure that all tree limbs that are touching or closely overhanging your roof are cut back.

This is a very basic rule of thumb that your homeowner’s insurance company might already require of you, particularly at policy renewal time or when buying a new policy. Truly, this is only possible to a certain degree, right? If you’ve got very old tall pine trees in close proximity to your house, you’re not going to be able to remove the highest limbs that hover over your house. However, this is doable within reason if you’ve got trees with lower, reachable branches.

 

This is immediately beneficial for a number of reasons. The obvious reason is to avoid large limbs from falling and doing significant damage to your roof. Another reason is during times of moderate to high winds, for shingles roofs, limbs can scratch or rub vital granules off of the shingles. This makes the shingles highly susceptible to early aging, blistering, and break down under harsh summer UV rays.
 
Limbs can also lift shingles from properly laying flat, causing nail heads to tear the shingles and making the area easily susceptible to moisture causing leaks and decking rot. For metal roofs, limbs coming into contact with the roof metal will cause scratches or gouges. Even if minor, in time this can result in uncoated bare metal leading to rust.  
 
I happen to have 2 gorgeous Live Oak trees relatively near my home. I know that when the time comes, I’m going to need to hire a professional arborist to properly cut branches back so that I do not cause damage or harm to these majestic trees. You may also need to consult with a professional arborist or landscaper if you’ve got delicate or temperamental trees.
 
But other than special case trees, a well-sharpened lopping pruning sheer can make very quick work of limbs, or for higher areas using a pole pruner or a pole saw (here is a good article reviewing some pole saws). It’s also possible that your local Home Depot or other hardware store tool rental counter has these tools available for very reasonable hourly or daily rental rates if you don’t see the need for permanently investing in the tool.

Remove bio-matter from your roof.

The build-up of pine needles or leaves, in a short time, becomes a breeding ground for mold, algae and invasive insects on shingle roofs. On metal roofs, extended contact with moisture-holding bio-matter can lead to the premature breakdown of the finish and/or discoloration of the colored panel. The standing moisture on the shingle can eventually penetrate the roofing system. This would be particularly bad news if your roof weren’t properly installed with ice and water shield in the valleys or starter shingles at the perimeter – becoming the leading cause of decking rot. 

 
There is a very easy solution to prevent this issue from getting out of control and really wreaking havoc on your roof. Using a leaf blower on low to medium power, blow all this debris off of the roof. Be sure to blow down the slope of the roof and not against or up the slope of the roof. Pay particular attention to areas such as valleys or when the direction of the roof changes to a new section, where walls connect with a section of roof, where metal patios connect to shingled sections of roof. It’s not necessary to do this every time a leaf falls on your roof.
 
Personally, I intend to do this at least twice a year. Probably as fall transitions into winter and then again in the spring. You should avoid using a rake or shovel to scrape debris off as this will quickly cause damage to the shingles. If you’ve got some stubborn areas of thick debris, try using a standard house broom to get debris loosened then continue with the leaf blower. I don’t recommend a very stiff-bristled broom like a heavy-duty shop broom.

Help restore the health and look of your roof by getting it soft washed.

Now, especially after you’ve done these things or even without doing any of this, you may notice that your roof has lost its original color, it looks dingy, or you may see what appears to be black streaks that look like dirt on your roof. You may find yourself wondering if it is possible to clean your roof. Not only is the answer to that question – Yes! But it’s possibly the best thing you can do to significantly prolong the life of your roof – no matter what type of roof you have. Why is that? I’m glad you asked!

Remember when we talked about the biomass that is so often found on a roof? Well, let’s flashback to our Environmental Science class days and remember that things like mold, algae, and moss are all living organisms. Left to thrive in their ideal conditions, they repopulate and will infiltrate the substrate they have attached themselves to – your roof. Gross right?!? I KNOW!! The black streaks you see so often on roofs aren’t dirt! It’s algae! Even if you don’t have leaves or pine needles piled up on your roof, even if you don’t have a roof with valleys and different angles – there’s bio-matter living on your roof. Especially in our Southern Louisiana humid atmosphere. This bio-matter will aid in prematurely aging your roof – especially a shingled roof.  

Now you’re probably asking yourself (or Google) HOW do I possibly clean my roof?? Unfortunately for us weekend warrior DIY’ers, this isn’t a project I recommend doing ourselves. Simply because particular care must be taken with both the methods as well as the products used to clean your roof. Remember, we can’t use things that are abrasive, so there’s no scrubbing. This is the same reason that you absolutely do NOT want your roof to be pressure washed – not by you or someone else.
 
High pressure, as is typical with a standard or commercial grade pressure washer, against your roof is a very damaging thing. Especially doing this from the ground, it’s guaranteed to lift shingles the same way moderate to high winds might then intentionally shooting water under the shingles. 
 
For proper roof cleaning, what you want to seek out is a professional soft wash cleaning system. Make it a point to have an intentional conversation with potential soft wash professionals about what methods they will use to clean your roof. Ask for details on the products they propose to use, how the products work. Will the products simply wash away the algae and fungus living on your roof, relocating it all to your yard and driveway? Ultimately the products you want to find being used on your roof are anti-microbial – effective in killing the bio-matter on your roof, home, driveway, sidewalks while simultaneously being biodegradable and environmentally safe.
 
Make it a point to ask how they will protect the landscaping near your house, the grass that your children and pets play on, your patio furniture, or your in-ground pool. This recommendation is so much more than getting your roof to look clean, it’s about getting your roof healthy.

If during the course of tackling these chores, you observed areas of concern such as shingles with brittle and broken edges, shingles that don’t lay completely flat or look out of place,  or areas where the roof felt soft or spongy – then you may have a bit of a moderate to advanced problem on your hands. No fear friend! It’s not the end of the world and doesn’t even mean your roof life is expired. There’s actually some simple roof repairs that you may be able to DIY. 

If you know the issues you observed are a bit outside your skillset, if your house is not new but is new to you, or you just want informed peace of mind, it would not be a bad idea to have a roofing professional perform an inspection. It is often the case that a roofing contractor will perform an inspection for no cost and no obligation. That roofing contractor should also be able to tell you in their professional opinion approximately how much more life your roof may have. To get educated before that conversation, check out the article on warranty roof versus standard roof replacements. Ask the contractor what the cost of a new roof may run you so that you can start budgeting towards that goal when you’re ready. If you’ve never consulted with a roofing contractor before, there’s some helpful information here so you feel completely prepared. 
 
My fellow homeowners! I hope this information has been helpful to you and will help us all be good stewards over the blessings of our homes. Good luck, and God bless you!

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