Here’s Why You Should Be Inspecting Your Roof Soon

Don't forgo a checkup this year.

coastal exterior windows

Coastal Windows & Exteriors installs a new roof on a Peabody home. / Photo courtesy of Coastal Windows & Exteriors Inc.

This year’s drought has affected Massachusetts in all sorts of negative ways, but what you may have not considered is the toll it’s taken on your roof.

Enter Stephanie Vanderbilt, co-owner of Beverly-based Coastal Windows & Exteriors. “Because of the lack of rain we had this summer, there were no opportunities for people to notice any leaks in their homes,” she says.

Homeowners possibly unaware of roof problems could be in for a tough winter. Thankfully, Vanderbilt, along with Coastal Windows & Exterior’s vice president of sales, Tom Ingram, share tips on how to prep for the cold and snow that lie ahead.

1. Always start with the attic.

It’s where you can catch a leak before it makes its way to the ceiling and walls of your home. First, ensure the attic has proper ventilation.

“Make sure your attic temperature is the same temperature as outside,” says Vanderbilt. “If it’s not, that is a sign you are lacking insulation.”

You don’t want hot air trapped in the attic from summertime, nor do you want heat from your home to escape into the attic. Vanderbilt says to check recessed lighting and bathroom vents for insulation. Seal cracks between the chimney and the attic floor, put foam around heat-protective lights, and seal the attic hatch.

Your attic should be cold,” says Vanderbilt. “When you go up there to get your holiday decorations, you should be wearing like three sweaters.”

2. Use a flashlight with a colored lens to look for leaks.

Take a flashlight to check the attic for pockets of moisture. The key, though, is to use a light with a colored light bulb. It can be done by purchasing a colored flashlight at a hardware store, or simply using a colored piece of film to hold over a white flashlight.

“If you have a standard stream of light, water will treat that light like a prism so it’ll reflect off and you won’t see moisture,” says Ingram. “But if you use a bulb that’s maybe a green or a red bulb, you can see where moisture is beading inside of an attic space.”

3. Stop dragging your feet and rake those gutters.

It’s a dreaded task of the season—but it’s imperative that it’s not put off before it’s too late. Ingram says gutters need to be raked out so melted snow can’t create an ice dam in them. And during the winter, make time to rake snow off of the roof so it can’t melt on the roof in the first place.

Photo courtesy of Costal Windows & Exteriors

Photo courtesy of Coastal Windows & Exteriors Inc.

4. Beware the swings in temperature.

Hate when it’s super cold in the morning and then a little too warm in the afternoon? Roofs hate that about fall, too. Much like how cars are soaked in condensation in the morning, roofs accumulate moisture in the same way.

“We’re talking about that temperature swing in one day, that’s a lot of expansion and contraction and that’s a lot of moisture going into the roofing system and then evaporating,” says Ingram.

With the lack of rain this year, UV rays may have dried out the roof. With the added expansion and contractions, it’s possible cracks have formed—creating the perfect scenario for a leak.

5. Take a step back.

When it comes down to it, homeowners should step back for a moment. About 30 feet, to be exact.

“Find a way to be able to just take a step back—30 feet away from your home if you can—and look at your roof,” says Ingram.

Look for protruding shingles, mold, lichen, and streaks. Those streaks are not staining, says Ingram, they’re actually bacteria that can eat away at the roof.

“A roof is relatively inexpensive for what it’s protecting,” Ingram says. As always, he adds, it can’t hurt to schedule a regular roof inspection every two years.