The roof is part of the exterior but requires more individual attention. It is designed to protect all the components of the dwelling. There are many roof styles and finished materials. Each style and material is inspected carefully for, wear, leaks, defects and other deficiencies. Roofing problems that go undetected can cause serious harm to other components of the building. Styles and types of roofs are dictated by location, age, and preference. Your inspector will carefully evaluate the condition of the material used, note defects and discuss the possible remaining life expectancy of the roof surface.
Roofs are designed in an abundance of styles and combinations. Most roof designs have a pitch or slope. The slope of the roof allows it to shed water, reduce ultraviolet exposure and prolong the life of the roofing material. Roofing designs are selected to both protect the building and add ascetic appeal. Gable and Hip roofs are the most commonly seen roofs on homes. Flat roofs are often used to add curb appeal and save expense on construction. Each roof design is constructed differently and has potential problems if not installed and maintained correctly. When roof coverings have been changed as they wear out or renovations are undertaken, the roof design must be able to accommodate the new installation. Many roofs are designed using a combination of alternatives. The inspector will carefully check the roof framing where visible, the sheathing, flashing, and roof covering for any visible defects or wear. A badly designed or installed roofing system can be a source of constant problems and extensive damage to the inner building envelope.
Hip roofs are almost as popular as gable roofs. Hip roofs have no valleys unless extended with a different roof type. The hip rafters support the roof surface and framing at angles which eliminate valleys that can leak and wear. When installed correctly, hip roofing design is the most favorable for a home because its angles help it deflect the elements from a home. Your professional inspector will be looking carefully for good quality construction and installation as hip roofs are a little more complicated to install and when done improperly are very difficult to repair without a large expense.
Gable roofs are the most commonly seen roof throughout the country. Besides a flat roof they are the easiest to install for a builder and in today’s construction may be quickly erected using pre-fabricated truss systems. Gable roofs are often done in combination with dormers or valley type connections. The connections, valleys and dormers are inspected carefully by your inspector for leaks, roof surface damage and other defects. A gable roof usually is vented at the ends and may also have other venting systems such as soffit vents, static roof vents, ridge venting or an attic fan.
It has been said that roofers install flat roofs so they can forever charge for repairs! A flat roof is just as it sounds, flat. These roofs in residential construction usually are prone to leaks at all penetrations, wear quickly and may sag. This type of roof installation is fast and inexpensive. Many extensions are constructed using either a flat or shed-style roof because non-professionals install them and framing is simple to manage. Flat roofs are often inspectors biggest concern when they arrive at the home. Your inspector will suspect problems related to them before they see the roof or the inside of the home because flat roofs almost always leak. Many flat roofs are abandoned after frustration and expense over years and a gable roof is installed right over them.
Shed roof styles are merely a large rectangular surface at a slope of 2 inches per foot or greater. Low sloped shed roofs wear out quickly, while more generously sloped shed roofs of 5 inches per foot can last as long as a gable installation. Shed roofs are inspected particularly for shifting or sagging. The design does not take advantage of one side of the roof pushing against the other like in a gable roof. Since most shed roofs have relatively low slopes they are prone to leaks and wear more quickly. Most shed roofs are installed for cost effectiveness and workmanship on extensions done using shed roofs must be carefully evaluated for defects.
There are many different types of roof coverings. Each one must be installed properly and has a design life expectance. Some roof coverings such has high grade slate or tile can last over 100 years! Other roof coverings such as asphalt rolled roofing last only 5-8 years. The various roof coverings are each prone to different types of problems. Usually the longer a roof covering is designed to last, the more expensive it is to repair or replace. Particular roof coverings are selected for a building based on the climate of the region, the cosmetic desire and the economic realities of matching the roof covering with the type of home. The roof surface is one of the most important components of the inspection. The protection of the inner building all starts at this point. The inspector will check the surface for any visible wear or damage. The inspector is also looking for improper installation and or alterations, which may be causing problems now or down the road. Besides end of normal life expectancy issues, bad installations are the most common reasons for roof failures. If a roof is installed improperly, repairs are usually only temporary and replacement is typically required.
Asphalt shingle roofs are the most popular roof material. They cover approximately 70-80 percent of all residential construction. Asphalt shingles are relatively inexpensive, easy to install and requires little maintenance than other more complicated roof coverings. The shingles come in a multitude of colors and designs and last from 15 to 30 years typically. Another advantage of asphalt shingles is normally a second layer that can be applied after the first has worn out. A common practice of installing a third layer to save expense by homeowners and roofers is often undertaken. This usually is a problem because it puts too much weight on the roof, shingles wear rapidly and the roof surface becomes uneven and is prone to wind damage. Asphalt shingles are sometimes improperly installed over old wood shingled roofs and sometimes even old slate roofs.
Slate Roof Covering
Slate roofing is typically considered a more expensive type of roofing material. The material itself costs more, it takes longer to install and some slates, being thicker, require a stronger supporting frame. If its well constructed, a slate roof has a normal life expectancy of more than 50 years. A slate roof is also fireproof and waterproof. Slate requires very little maintenance and never needs any kind of preservative. The inspector will check for proper installation and any signs of defect. If shingles need to be replaced, it is important to use a slate that is compatible with the original roof.
Wood Shingle Covering
The life expectancy of a wood shingle or shake is 25 to 30 years. Some can even last up to 50 years. They are more expensive that asphalt shingles, but they’re popular because of their charming rustic appearance. It is recommended not to install untreated wood shingles and s hakes where heat and humidity are severe because they are quite susceptible to decay from moss, mildew and fungus. Treated shingles should also be installed on low-slope roofs as a low-slope will not shed water as well as roofs with a higher pitch. Treated shingles should also be used on roofs shadowed by overhanging trees as this condition would keep a roof wet longer.
Asphalt Rolled Roofing
Asphalt rolled roofing should only be used on flat or low sloped roofs. This material has a short life expectancy of about 10 years and requires ongoing maintenance. The seams should be inspected periodically and the roof surface is prone to damage from water ponding and ice in northern climates. Since it is primarily used on low slopes the roof material degrades quickly from ultraviolet exposure and wear from the direct nature of the elements. Besides wearing out quickly these roofs are often installed poorly because it is a very inexpensive installation. Careful attention must be paid to flat or low sloped roofs with asphalt rolled roofing.
Tile Roof Covering
A well constructed clay or concrete tile roof should last more than 50 years. This is also an expensive type of roof covering as the materials are more expensive and require a strong frame to support the heavy load of the tiles. Tile roofs require very little maintenance and no preservatives. The tile is fireproof so fire insurance costs less for the entire life of the building. Clay and concrete tiles have similar physical properties and installation methods. Concrete is cheaper to make than clay and it can be made anywhere. Clay tile must be made near a clay quarry, so freight cost to the building site is often higher than for concrete tile.
The attic of the home is the upper most portion of the dwelling, which still remains on the interior. Attics are often used by homeowners for storage and sometimes finished for additional living space if construction style allows and unfortunately even when it doesn’t. When an attic is unfinished and accessible the inspector can inspect for the quality of the construction, the insulation, water penetration, venting, pest or rodent entry and exposed electrical hazards. An inspector will always point out that when an attic is finished he/she will not be able to inspect the enclosed areas. Your inspector will be looking for signs that may indicate hidden problems as well as a safe and professional finishing job which will not interfere with the venting and insulation systems of the home.
The insulation in the attic area retards the warm or cool air from escaping the living area. One of the least expensive and easiest ways to reduce heating and cooling costs is to properly insulate the attic area. The inspector will identify the type of insulation used, its condition and how well it has been installed. Most modern construction is insulated with fiberglass rolls or bats. Up to twelve inches may be advised for maximum effectiveness. Some older types of insulation such as: rock wool, vermiculite, and cellulose can be ineffective and possibly a fire hazard. Many non-professionals will install insulation into the soffits or against the roof sheathing between the rafters. These types of installations will be pointed out because they can cause damage to the building materials.
The roof sheathing is normally visible from the attic area. The sheathing is the material used over the rafters but under the roofing finished material. The most common type of sheathing used is plywood. It adds structural strength to the building and if kept dry has a very long life expectancy. Plywood and other laminated woods can sustain substantial damage if roof leaks are not repaired or poor venting causes condensation. Older homes and homes with exotic heavy roofs may be sheathed with wood planks. This type of sheathing is expensive but extremely durable. It is less prone to water damage because the boards used are whole pieces rather than glued or laminated and because they are smaller they allow air movement more easily, which helps prevent condensation damage. The inspector will be looking carefully for signs of roof leaks and condensation damage, which can be costly to repair.
Attic venting is another very inexpensive way to reduce energy costs, prolong roof life, and make the living space more comfortable. Non-professionals can often overlook adequate ventilation in the attic area. Many homeowners cover the attic vents in the winter to conserve heat and forget to remove the covering in the summer, which reduces roof life and cause massive damage to the sheathing and insulation. Attic venting can be passive such as soffit and gable vents, or it can be power assisted such as an attic roof fan. Power venting of the attic is the best way to quickly remove moisture and heat build up, but it must be checked carefully that it has adequate passive vents to allow air to pass through rather than draw from the living space. The inspector will carefully note the type of ventilation and make recommendations on whether or not improvements or alterations are required.